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12th Jun 2013

The Big Interview: Paul O’Connell talks about snoring team-mates, Leitrim GAA and a little bit of rugby

There is very little Paul O’Connell hasn’t achieved in the game, but a winning Lions Tour is something that has yet to be ticked off the checklist.


There is very little Paul O’Connell hasn’t achieved in the game, but a winning Lions Tour is something that has yet to be ticked off the checklist.

The Munster and Ireland legend has won a lot on his illustrious career, but after a whitewash against the All Blacks and an agonising defeat in South Africa four years ago where he more than played his role as captain – indeed Martyn Williams stated he was the best skipper he had ever worked with – and he is back for one last tilt at a series victory.

JOE caught up with the talismanic second row to talk about team bonding, the hardest training session he has ever done in the Hong Kong humidity, the Lions dance-off and the snorers in the squad. And we talked a little rugby too.

JOE: Hi Paul. The weather in Australia must be a bit easier to train in than Hong Kong. Was it the most humid conditions you have ever played in?

Paul O’Connell: It was very humid, but I remember playing in something similar in Apia in Samoa 10 years ago and I struggled that day too. I actually finished the game that day, but there was no way I was going to get through the 80 minutes in Hong Kong which was a little disappointing, but it probably was the most difficult conditions I have ever played in.

We trained the day after we arrived and it was one of the hardest training sessions I ever did. It was just very difficult to recover. Normally after a lineout or a scrum you get 30 seconds to recover, but there was just no way of recovering  quickly in that humidity.

JOE: It must have been extra difficult for the fair-haired lads like yourself in particular

POC: Well everyone seemed to struggle, but probably affected us that little bit more for us alright alright. It wasn’t easy.

JOE: You must have been delighted to get on the scoresheet during the game itself.

POC: I was it was my usual deadly finishing from a metre out!

Paul O'Connell scores a try 1/6/2013

Deadly from close range

JOE: The second game was another big win, this time against a depleted Western Force. Were you disappointed that they didn’t have a stronger starting XV?

JOE: They are in the middle of their season and had a big gaming coming up just a few days later, so it was disappointing they fielded a weaker side. We are expecting to face stronger teams, starting with the Queensland Reds.

JOE: One of the biggest challenges on the Lions Tour is lads bonding and getting to know each other. Who are you rooming at the moment?

POC: It is a huge part of it and we switch room-mates everytime we move. Currently I’m with Sean Maitland. I was with Cian Healy for the last couple of days and I had to help him pack his bags after his injury against the Western Force. I’ve also shared rooms with Richard Hibbard, George North and Sam Warburton. It’s a great way to get to know people really.

JOE: Is there any of the lads you would prefer to avoid? Any snorers in the squad?

POC: No, I’ve heard Mako Vunipola is a bit of a snorer alright, but I always carry the wax earplugs and I’m known to snore myself. I can’t then get up on the high horse.

JOE: We heard that Rob Kearney is collecting the fines on tour. Have you been caught yourself yet?

POC: I have actually, I was late down for a pool recovery session one morning and had to fork up. It’s really more so for bonding and have a bit of craic.

When lads are late they have to roll a dice and have to carry out a forfeit. Today one of the forfeits was a 30 second dance, so we had a dance-off between Dan Lydiate, Mike Phillips and Stuart Hogg. Dan won by the way after Phillips tried a David Brent style effort.

JOE: Who are the biggest messers on the touring party?

POC: It’s actually quiet that way. Last time in South Africa we had Andy Powell and Donncha O’Callaghan, so no-one quite matches them in that regard. Ian Evans and Sean O’Brien would probably come the closest.

JOE: We saw a video upload online of yourself looking for justice for the South Leitrim Four. Are you following the plight of the Leitrim footballers then?

POC: I wasn’t sure what that was about, we were just rushing to the bus and I was asked to say it. It’s always easier to go with it.

JOE: We know that the players are busy with training, playing and travelling, so do ye have much downtime?

POC: We don’t really, not as much as you might think we have.  We have two games every week, we have weights, analysis, training and there hasn’t been too much downtime. I’m hoping to meet up with a few people while I’m down here, including my former Munster team-mate Paul Warwick. I read a little bit aswell and I have a few box sets.

JOE: What book are you reading at the moment?

POC: I’m reading Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing which is written by Donald McRae and looks at boxing throughout the 90s. He talks about Eubank, Tyson and guys like that. It’s a great book and I’m also watching the box set Suits. I’m keeping myself entertained.

JOE: Did you hear the interview with Ronan O’Gara, Ian Dempsey and Mario Rosenstock on Today FM last week? You made a fleeting appearance?

POC: Haha, I did. I saw it going around on Twitter so I played it. It was very good and very accurate I have to say. He seemed to take both of us off fairly well.

JOE: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Paul and best of luck with the rest of the tour.

POC: No problem, take it easy.