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Rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll opens up about struggles to adjust to life after rugby

The former Ireland and Leinster star has said that many sports stars can find the adjustment difficult

BoD back in the glory days

Esther McCarthySunday World

Rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll has opened up about his struggles to adjust to his new life after his rugby career ended.

The former Ireland and Leinster star has said that many sports stars can find the adjustment difficult - and he personally worried that his best days were behind him.

Studies show that over half of former professional sportsmen and women have concerns about their mental health, but only 40% of those seek help after retiring.

BoD’s new TV documentary that aired last night looked at the repercussions of retiring from elite sport on mental health.

After the Roar saw O’Driscoll team up with Richie Sadler and also featured contributions from Gareth Southgate and AP McCoy.

“Retirement is something every athlete has to deal with, but when the crowd stops roaring the silence can be deafening,” he said in an interview with Sportsmail.

“My worst fears were that I’d never find anything to live up to the satisfaction levels I’d had.”

After 15 years of experiencing the highs and lows of a top-level rugby career, with all of the success it brought, O’Driscoll found retirement from a sport a deeply challenging experience.

“I wanted to examine the aftermath and rediscovery of yourself after you finish playing. I was worried life had literally peaked. It was worrying that my best days were behind me.”

He has since transitioned into another career in sport, working as a pundit for Newstalk and TV, and has set up his own production company.

“I was busy at times, but other times I would just be plodding along, really struggling for a major purpose,” O’Driscoll told Newstalk’s Off the Ball this week.

He added there was a “eureka moment” when he realised he needed to stay in shape after seeing photos of himself on a family holiday.

O’Driscoll’s glittering rugby career came to an end in 2014, and as the former centre revisited that chapter of his life in ‘After The Roar’, he admitted to struggling to find the same sense of fulfilment in his work as a pundit and businessman.

“This brings it back to why I’m making this film,” O’Driscoll explained, “because men in particular are far less likely to share any issues around their mental health.”

O’Driscoll recalled his own fears during a conversation with ex-footballer Sadlier, who now works as a psychotherapist.

“It took a while for me to properly enjoy one of a number of players playing 13 for Ireland, because I’d been in that position for 15 years.

“So when you’re gone from it, you don’t wish them a poor performance, but I think you’re looking at it inquisitively as to how they are going to do.

“And a little bit of the ego is dented when they smash it or they’re flying. You’re like, ‘Oh gosh’, because a little bit of you does want to be missed.”

The documentary also featured Ireland’s most-capped player of all time meeting his former Leinster head coach Michael Cheika, England cricketer Jonny Bairstow and Anthony Ogogo, a bronze medal winner at the 2012 Olympics who saw a promising boxing career came to an early end due an eye injury.


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