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It's Paul Good Paul O'Connell on the challenges of life after rugby, being a dad and what's next

When I finished as a player, I didn’t keep in shape and started feeling crappy about myself"

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Paul O’Connell promoting new cookbook Home.

Paul O’Connell promoting new cookbook Home.

Paul O’Connell promoting new cookbook Home.

Life after rugby has been a whole new journey for iconic player Paul O’Connell and he admits there have been moments when he wondered what came next.

While he confesses to feeling a sense of relief when a career that included three Six Nations wins with Ireland, a trio of Lions tours and two European cup wins with his beloved Munster came to an end, there have also been moments of mourning over his glorious past.

He spoke to Magazine+ for an exclusive interview to promote a new cookbook in association with Aldi entitled Home, that will raise money for children’s charity Barnardo’s, he gave us an insight into his own story since he played his last game in February 2016.

“At first, I didn’t miss rugby when I finished,” said O’Connell.

“I had been in a leadership position for a long time and I was glad to have a break, glad to have my own routine, but I started missing it after about a year and a half.

“I used to get quite nervous before big games and I now appreciate that those nerves were a privilege.

“To have something so important in your life and to be doing it with a bunch of people who you get on so well with was a wonderful experience. So I did miss it and I still miss it.

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Paul O’Connell in his iconic Irish jersey.

Paul O’Connell in his iconic Irish jersey.

Paul O’Connell in his iconic Irish jersey.

“That’s why I started training again a while back and it has been great for me.

“When I finished as a player, I didn’t keep in shape and started feeling crappy about myself, so I went back to the gym and realised how good it was for me and for my mental health.

“My fitness is miles off from where I was playing, but the ambition is different now. When you are playing, the darker places you go to in training, the easier is it to tell yourself that you can overcome adversity in a game when you reach a dark place.

“That’s not what I need to do now and I am determined to train within myself and make sure it’s good for me.”

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O’Connell is back involved with rugby now after accepting a role as forwards coach with Andy Farrell’s Ireland team last year, yet his former Munster and Ireland teammate Donncha O’Callaghan has followed a path that has taken him to new fame as a radio and TV star.

“Donncha’s story is just brilliant and it’s great to see him doing so well in a role he is brilliant at,” says O’Connell of the RTÉ 2fm Breakfast Show host.

“He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, goes to bed at 10pm every night, but he is still the funniest guy in the group. He’s always doing pranks, messing and making people smile.

“On top of all of that, he was the world’s hardest trainer and dedicated to rugby.

With O’Connell’s full-time days on the frontline of Irish rugby now over, he is relishing the chance to spend time with his three kids Paddy, Lola and Felix.

Yet his towering presence and distinctive features ensure this Irish sporting legend is still a celebrity in the eyes of everyone around Ireland, much to the bemusement of his children.

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Paul playing golf with his son Paddy as his caddy.

Paul playing golf with his son Paddy as his caddy.

Paul playing golf with his son Paddy as his caddy.

“I have never really seen myself as being famous,” he continues. “Critical comments never bothered me, but this generation has grown up with social media and might feel differently. They might be a little more sensitive and I don’t see what benefit they would get from an open forum where people can unload on you.

“Where I come from in Limerick, everyone knows who I am and no one really bothers me, which is great and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“A lot of the people that want to chat with me now are older and my little girl Lola is always confused when people come up and ask to have a photo with me because she tells me I’m not famous anymore!”

O’Connell is a big supporter of the Barnardo's charity and jumped at the chance to work on a cookbook produced by Aldi.

“Barnardo’s in Ireland and Aldi are committed to raising one million with this project and it is a wonderful charity,” he added.

“You ask the players and they will confirm that one of the highlights of playing for Ireland is the food we get when we meet up for international matches, created by a wonderful chef and Performance Coach at the IRFU called Maurice McGeehan, so his recipes are all in here.

“Hopefully this book gives a good insight into what rugby players eat and I’ve even squeezed a few recipes of my own in there as well.”

  • Aldi has partnered with the IRFU to launch a new cookbook in support of Barnardo’s. The cookbook called ‘Home’ for €11.99 features 72 delicious, family-friendly recipes

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