Donnacha O’Callaghan hanging up his boots at end of this season: ‘As much as I love rugby I love my family more and I need to be there’

Former Munster and Ireland lock Donnacha O’Callaghan will bring the curtain down on his illustrious career at the end of this season.

Donnacha O’Callaghan hanging up his boots at end of this season: ‘As much as I love rugby I love my family more and I need to be there’

The 38-year old will hang up his boots when this current campaign with Worcester Warriors comes to an end.

O’Callaghan, Munster’s most capped player with 268 appearances in a career which saw him make his debut against Edinburgh Reivers in 1998, said he wants to get out while he is still fit and healthy.

“I am done,” he said. “It’s been great. I have had a great time. I love the game and I want to finish loving it. Honestly, body wise I feel great. The game is changing though and everyone is talking about it this season.

“Over the last three years, the physicality has gone through the roof.

“I’d love to be able to walk away from it and say I had a great time within it and be thankful to the game itself. I just look at my own crew. Guys like Denis Leamy is after getting a hip operation. I have four small kids, I want to be running around with them having fun. I don’t want to be stuck in goal in a five-a-side. You want to finish the game fit, healthy, and well. You want to be active,” he said.

His wife Jenny, daughters Sophie, Anna, and Robin and son Jake live in Cork, but O’Callaghan said the commute from the English midlands was a crucial factor in his decision to retire.

“It’s definite right now (the decision to retire). My family need me around more. As much as I love rugby I love them more and I need to be there. That’s corny isn’t it? But that’s the way it is.”

The former Lion said the main reason was that the attrition rate continues to rise in the professional game.

He was due to sit out Worcester’s trip to Galway to play Connacht in the Challenge Cup at the weekend, but injuries in their club meant he had to travel and come on as a replacement.

“If Darren Barry was available I wouldn’t have been summoned to go to Galway. It’s just he took a bang on the head and that’s what’s happening in the game this weekend. The big ones for me is you look at Robbie Henshaw and Leigh Halfpenny, their tackle technique is perfect. But they are still being run over by these big men.

“As a dad, Jake’s father, I think would I put my kid into a game? It’s beautiful to watch a fella playing a skilled game, learning skills, as opposed to... what do I tell Jake about getting as big as he possibly can and running over each other?”

He hasn’t definite plans about what to do once he steps down at the end of the campaign at Sixways where he is club captain this season and where he has made 50 appearances since joining over two years ago.

However, he would like to stay involved in the game in some capacity, although he’s not sure about coaching.

“I don’t know. If you asked me right now I would say I would run a million miles from it. You don’t know the work that goes in on that end. It’s not that I am shy of work. I just feel it’s massively unthanked. Sometimes you look at every foreign coach at home before we look at our own.

“There’s incredible talent under our roof. Credit to Leinster they have got the model absolutely right, with Leo Cullen there supported by Stuart Lancaster. When you see that happening again throughout the provinces it’s really good. But we have got to get it to a point where we empower our Irish coaches because they are fantastic. Everyone is learning from the Pat Lams, the Stuart Lancasters and even the Joe Schmidts.

“We are lucky the talent is through the roof. I love how Munster have handled it. They have done a great job with the transition which can be massively sticky. Typical, but you knew they would. I can only go back to when I was there. I remember Declan (Kidney) was moving up to Irish camp and Alan Gaffney was coming in. He viewed everything for the first few months. Then you can pick and see what you need to work on and what you agree with when you get to know the lads. It’s been good, there are brilliant coaches there in Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones. But let’s not be afraid to push them on.

“I would like to stay involved in some way and I have a few options. You learn from the guys who have stepped out of the game how well to do it. I will be honest, I have got so much out of it and I love it so much it would be wrong to step away. But I want it to be in a giving back capacity. I have been spoiled by the game, I really have.”

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