Donncha O’Callaghan has expressed his desire to re-sign with Munster and end his career as a one-club man.
The 34-year-old, who will pull on a Munster jersey for the 226th time tonight when he starts in the second row against Ospreys at Thomond Park, is out of contract at the end of the season when his current three-year IRFU contract expires.
Interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1 yesterday, the Munster lock was asked if he would ever be tempted to leave.
“I’d like to think not,” O’Callaghan replied. “I love playing for Munster, I love playing for Ireland. Granted money comes into things when you’re thinking about more than yourself, which I am now.
“But it’s part of me as well, that you have to have that feeling of playing for your team and I don’t think I could do it for money, running out for Munster is something I always wanted and something that my family are into.
“My friends support Munster and it just means everything. Like Ireland, it means more to wear that shirt than just something that pays my salary.
“It’s not a great negotiating position to put myself into but I hope that I’m a one-club man.”
Far from thinking of retirement, though, the two-time British & Irish Lions tourist, capped 94 times by Ireland, believes he is fighting fit and able to carry on playing, preferably for his native province beyond this, his 16th season in red.
“I find sport quite ageist and I’ve got to the point where I root for the older guy now. When Robert Heffernan won his world championship I was jumping around the place, not because he’s an incredible athlete but because it was someone doing it at our age.
“I’m getting really good training scores, I’m fit and well and my body feels good. That’s all I can take off it. The main thing is that I enjoy it, I love coming to training, I love the guys I’m hanging around with and I love playing for my team.
“And as long as that’s the case, I think I can stick in it. When that goes, I think it is time to give up, but I still have the competitive edge.
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve been successful with Munster and Ireland, and I want that again.”
O’Callaghan’s comments come in the same week as his long-time second-row partner Paul O’Connell express his wish to stay at Munster beyond this season and while that is a boost for Irish rugby supporters, their determination to continue playing at the highest level for a couple more years could well have the likes of Devin Toner tearing their hair out.
The 27-year-old Leinster lineout leader, vying for a Test start against Samoa next Saturday, has had to be patient for his seven caps, only three of which were starts, the most recent in the back-to-back Tests this summer against the USA and Canada.
“It’s been kind of sporadic,” Toner said. “My debut was against Samoa three years ago and I’ve only had two Six Nations caps so I’ve kind of been in and out, obviously because of the quality second rows in Ireland.
“I’ve been happy enough. I suppose my goal is to get involved, get more caps and establish myself more.”
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