Referring to himself as a ‘very happy father’ on his Twitter handle, the former Ireland rugby player and his wife Aoife are proud parents to 18-month-old Soleil — “she has an exceptionally sunny disposition” — and 10-week-old Lennon, named after The Beatles’ legend. “Family is everything,” he says.
Aged 36 and taking the “road less travelled”, he is busy meeting the demands of his multi-tasking career as a businessman, TV commentator and sports columnist.
Having played professionally for 17 years, he knows what it takes to make the cut in sport. Last week he stepped out with 300 secondary school children in Dublin for Sky’s Academy Inspiration Day.
“Hopefully we are going to see somebody from here push on into the elite ranks. And hopefully the majority of the kids [at the academy] will continue to play for their own health and the competitiveness — and the enjoyment of taking part.”
Compared to when I was playing rugby— not in great shape. Compared to where I thought I’d be a year after finishing playing rugby, I’m quite happy with the shape I’m in.
I don’t get nearly enough time to exercise as I would like to but I try to fit it in with a busy, busy schedule.
If it’s important you make time for it. I do reformer Pilates in my wife’s studio, The Form School, and I walk our dog Albert.
I’m trying to get into cycling. It’s a low-impact sport, I’ve had a lot of operations, so that ticks all the boxes for me.
My wife and I try to cook as often as we can. We try to have a mix and go through as many bags of kale and spinach as possible. When you prepare the food you control your own portion size.
I also use the MyFitnessPal app on my iPhone which gives me a good indication of what I’m eating.
A good friend of Aoife’s sent in some doughnuts from Offbeat Donut Company. To say we are addicted is a slight understatement. I try and have a good, balanced diet and if I want a treat I love a coffee and a tasty doughnut.
If there is something on my mind I will probably try to deal with it before I go to bed. The problem is never as bad when you write it down and I try and have a solution in my head before going to bed.
What I love about Pilates is that it’s like a workout for all your body — but also the mindfulness aspect of it.
Whenever I need to write a speech or write an article or I’m getting ready for something, I take Albert out for a good walk — he’s an enormous leonberger.
When your mind is concentrating on the mundane task of walking it frees up your subconscious to do some creative thinking.
It would be Aoife, the kids, her family — I won the jackpot with the in-laws — my own family and my really good friends from school and rugby. They are the people who I have the most support from in my life.
The smell of the changing room. That mix of forwards whose hygiene is probably questionable, Vaseline, Deep Heat, sweat, muck that’s been brought in off the pitch, wet towels on the floor. The whole boiling pot. That does for me.
In 2015 when my daughter was born and then writing my retirement letter. They were both really positive experiences — one is the beginning of something and the other the end of something.
I was given a book a few years ago — The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama. Of course, I get annoyed by people and the most mundane things sometimes.
But one of the things in the book is that if someone is in a bad mood or treats you badly [you ask yourself] is there something going on in their life?
I would always try to look for the good and the positive in people.
I try to treat people with respect and to engage with them. You don’t get it right all the time.
No. I meditate when I can. I use a great little gizmo called The PIP [a bio sensor] that helps you to relax and to control your breathing.
Every evening when I walk in the door. I get accosted by Albert, you can’t get past a 70kg dog. When he settles down, I have three big smiles waiting for me.
When you have that when you get home there is no problem that seems that big.