Munster rugby legend Donncha O’Callaghan is relishing becoming ‘a great dad’ when he hangs up his boots this weekend
O’Callaghan ends an incredible 20-year rugby career after Worcester Warriors’ clash with Harlequins at Sixways tomorrow.
Prior to his three-year stint in England, O’Callaghan spent 17 seasons with his native Munster, won 94 Ireland caps and twice toured with the Lions.
And now the 39-year-old Cork native is ready for a new chapter in his life with wife Jenny, daughters Sophie, Anna and Robin, and son Jake back in Cork.
“For me it’s about putting priorities in place,” he told the club website, warriors.co.uk. “I’ve made massive sacrifices throughout my playing career to miss out on certain things but I think in the last few years, with everything that’s gone on with really close friends, you realise that family is so important.
“I’m starting to miss small things but they’re adding up and I’m missing my kids and being there for them and being a proper dad. I need to make my family a priority and stop masking behind sacrifices which are really just selfish moments from me.
“With that said I’ve had a great time, I’ve made incredible friends and picked up values and characteristics from within the game and the people that have influenced me from under-age level and up.
"I’ve loved it and I’m honestly so thankful to the game, the way it’s shaped me as a person and as a man.
“It was important family-wise for them to know I was calling time on my career. That’s something I’ve mulled around with for the past few months. I can easily keep playing but there comes a time when you just have to draw a line in the sand.
"Body-wise I feel good and I could keep going on but I think there’s a time when you have to prioritise and hopefully I’ll be remembered for being a good rugby player but I’d rather be a great dad. My little boy is starting to dress up in Elsa dresses from the film Frozen and hanging around with princess outfits — so I think he badly needs a male influence around the house!”
O’Callaghan paid tribute to Jenny, and his family, for helping him to extend his career in England.
“Every time I go back to Ireland I’m quite glad my clothes aren’t out in the front garden! I’ve been at Worcester for three seasons now so there’ll be a bit of a transition with me going back. I’ve loved it and I’m grateful to my family and especially my wife Jenny.
“You have to be selfish to be a top-end sportsman, you have to be so focused for yourself and she’s allowed me to do that because she knows how much I love it so I’m thankful to her and the family for backing me and that’s led to me having a decent enough career of it.”
When asked to pinpoint his best moment in the game, O’Callaghan pointed to his first cap (against Wales, in the 2003 Six Nations).
“The provincial game has gathered momentum but when I was growing up if you were into rugby it was all about playing for Ireland. I’ve never been so proud as when I ran on for my first cap.
“I was bursting with pride after the game. I remember we won with Ronan O’Gara slotting a drop-goal to win it but even if we’d lost by 80 points I’d have still been delighted!
"It was just a special, special moment. To see how proud that made my family gave me a massive lift. It’s the one that stands out.”
O’Callaghan raised a few eyebrows when revealing what he will miss most when he leaves the game.
“Surprisingly, pre-season is one of the bits I’ll miss. Those are the moments where you make bonds with your teammates.
“Of course, vanity will probably kick in and I’ll probably never hit a maul or a scrum again but the big thing I’ll miss is the changing room. The fun, the cráic, the hanging around with each other, the common goal of a group of lads working together towards something,” he added.
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