NINE YEARS SEPARATE Paul O’Connell’s two IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year awards, and the Ireland captain has changed greatly in that time.
2006 saw the Munster lock follow in the footsteps of Malcolm O’Kelly, Gordon D’Arcy and Johnny O’Connor in claiming the award that probably means a little more to recipients that any other.
O’Connell in Munster colours in 2006. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Voted for by their fellow professionals, the Players’ Player of the Year has earned the respect of those who really count. O’Connell was honoured again on Wednesday night in Dublin, a unanimous choice as the best in Ireland this season.
Now 35 years of age and still weighing up whether or not to retire from playing at the conclusion of this year’s World Cup, O’Connell is a changed player from the 2006 version.
“Two completely different players,” said O’Connell before the awards ceremony. “The way I can train now and have to train now is completely different to what it was back then.
“It seems so long ago now, and I remember that the year I won it , I actually had a very long pre-season and I broke my hand punching Simon Easterby in my first game back and ended up getting another 10 weeks where I had the broken hand.
“Even if I broke my hand now and had a longer pre-season, I wouldn’t be able to train the way I did back then. The stuff I did during that pre-season, my body would fall apart doing now. It’s two very different players and two very different approaches to training.”