Oval Talk

O’Driscoll’s deserved reward

Enjoying a well-earned celebratory tippleWith their third Heineken Cup in four years, Leinster confirmed their place at the top of European rugby's tree and set an unprecedented record of winning the competition without a single defeat along the way.

Equally impressive, and just as significant, was the contribution of Brian O'Driscoll, Irish rugby's longstanding icon whose status as one of his generation's most enduring talents was further solidified whilst adding weight to his tag-line as one of the greatest players in the game's history.

At the age of 33 the Irishman has reached the point in his career - one punctuated by its fair share of injuries - where many who play in his position show certain kinds of weaknesses.

These are both physical and emotional, the type that chip away at an individual's ability to play regularly or deliver consistently at the highest level.

O'Driscoll has shown signs of a diminishing physical durability in recent years, but it is his counter-balance of this with the mental and inventive aspects of the game that mean he is still more than able to stick in performances of the highest calibre, despite carrying the remnants of wounds that would rule others ineffective.

Having undergone minor surgery only eight days before his side's date with destiny at Twickenham on Saturday, O'Driscoll initially looked like he was feeling the strain, receiving treatment on his knee early on and stuttering somewhat with his contributions and ability to keep pace with the game.

However, far from being out of it, he called upon all of his experience to show in an instant why he is the best at what he does: his injection of creativity in the lead up to half-time - one that lasted beyond the break, too - stretched Leinster's lead from what had been a slender advantage.

All his guise and knowledge, expertise and vision rolled into one to create the subtle differences needed to settle games of such magnitude, in which others often falter.

He may not have been in his pomp, but even when operating at a lesser physical level O'Driscoll has what it takes to inspire and spark, aspects which come only with that perfect combination of experience, creativity and belief in one's own ability.

How long he can go on for is anybody's guess - but what is certain is that over the weekend we saw one of European rugby's greatest players achieve a magnificent feat, one fully deserved and which ensured that his contribution to his club and his national game was rewarded with another tangible and worthy accolade.

Too often in sports a talented individual reaches the end of a career well short fulfilling his or her potential, and with little to show for a lifetime's dedication. With O'Driscoll - on a domestic front at least - we are assured that will not be the case.