Ireland legend O’Callaghan calls it a day

Back in 1998 a fresh-faced Donncha O’Callaghan made his senior debut for his hometown province of Munster.

Back in 1998 a fresh-faced Donncha O’Callaghan made his senior debut for his hometown province of Munster.

20 years later and the great man has finally hung up his boots after Saturday’s Sixways clash between Worcester Warriors and Harlequins.

Worcester don’t conclude their campaign until they travel to face Northampton Saints next week but O’Callaghan has decided to bid farewell on home ground.

And he signed off in style as Worcester secured their Aviva Premiership status with a thumping seven-try win over Harlequins.


In his two decades in the professional game, there is very little the powerful lock did not achieve.

A two-time British & Irish Lion, 94 caps for Ireland, 45 of them in the NatWest 6 Nations, including a Grand Slam in 2009.

Two Heineken Cups and a Magners League with Munster – O’Callaghan was renowned for putting his body on the line for the cause – and it often came up trumps.   Five years after that Munster debut, O’Callaghan made his Ireland debut against Wales in the 2003 Championship.

And, as he told reporters this week, that will forever be his proudest achievement:

“It was my first cap. The provincial game has gathered momentum but when I was growing up if you were into rugby it was all about playing for Ireland,” he said.

“I’ve never been so proud as when I ran on for my first cap. I was bursting with pride after the game. I remember we won with Ronan O’Gara slotting a drop goal to win it but even if we’d lost by 80 points I’d have still been delighted!

“It was just a special, special moment. To see how proud that made my family gave me a massive lift. It’s the one that stands out. There were definitely more successful days but from six years old, it’s the one you always want.”

The 2009 Grand Slam, Ireland’s first in 61 years, will always be a stand-out as well.

O’Callaghan started all five games as Declan Kidney’s side – powered by O’Callaghan and his partner in crime Paul O’Connell in the second row – swept all aside.

That year he also won the Magners League with Munster and toured South Africa with the Lions – appearing off the bench in that dramatic first Test in Durban.

O’Callaghan also appeared at three separate Rugby World Cups with Ireland before making his final international appearance in 2013 in a 13-13 draw with France at the Aviva Stadium.   But his club career continued unabated, leaving Munster in 2015 for a new adventure in England with Worcester.

And while the man himself insists the body is still capable of another season or two, the time is right to wave goodbye to the game he loves.

He added: “For me it’s about putting priorities in place. I’ve made massive sacrifices throughout my playing career to miss out on certain things. But I think in the last few years, with everything that’s gone on with really close friends, you realise that family is so important.

“I can easily keep playing but there comes a time when you just have to draw a line in the sand. Body-wise I feel good and I could keep going on, but I think there’s a time when you have to prioritise.

“Hopefully I’ll be remembered for being a good rugby player but I’d rather be a great dad.”