You Can Win Everything And Be A Nice Guy - The Brian O'Driscoll Autobiography
Brian's book came out in the same week that Roy wrote his second. The fact that I can use their first names and you know exactly who I am talking about tells you all you need to know about the two greatest sportsmen to don an Irish jersey. They are Irish icons not just of our generation, but of all time. Will we ever see better sportspeople in an Irish jersey again? I struggle to see it happen. You could argue Katie should sit alongside them and although not as universally liked, Rory has a good shout too.
I've always been a football man but one person single handily pulled me into a sport that I barely knew the rules of ten years ago because of the force of his outstanding talent and that was "Dricco". I grew up outside Dublin and arriving here as an outsider at 17 I always found "jocks" terrifying. The got all the girls, they were cliquey and they were decidedly upper class. At that stage I pigeon holed him into that bracket as you do with all famous people. You label them. In fact one of the biggest themes of the book is about public perception, how people have an idea of what you should be like from seeing you talking on TV. He talks about the constant battle to not give everything away. How the press turns your words and creates stories out of nothing. Thats why he says he loves Twitter so much because you speak directly to people without having your words twisted.
What you get with this book is a wonderful story of a successful career with a couple of decisive moments. He talks about the time in his earlier days where he was dating Glenda Gilson, hitting the sauce with the lads and relying on raw talent rather than total professionalism. The blond highlights summed up this time perfectly but lucky for Brian, and for everybody in Ireland, he made the right choices and steered his life and career in a totally different direction. It doesn't sound like Brian had anymore of a problem with the booze than any other young lad having fun, but it is interesting how much of a thread alcohol is in both Roy and Brian's lives. A reflection on Irish society perhaps and how we are brought up that even our biggest icons have to battle the demon drink at times.
You also get a sense that he is a pure rugby man and that team work and bonding with the lads was as important as anything else. Although there were constant flashes of brilliance in his early career as an individual its actually only later in his career that the success started to flow both with Ireland, Leinster and The Lions. Indeed if like English footballers he'd written a book in his mid to late twenties it wouldn't have been that interesting, purely because of a lack of silverware. When the cups did start to flow they came in waves and success is the backdrop to the second half of the book.
The Dricco story is nearly too good to be true. The cups, the perfect wife, the adorable daughter and his all round nice guy demeanour. The book even starts with his daughter Sadie woven into the story with tales of how his parents taught him to be polite. With an autobiography you have to realise that the subject is presenting themselves as they see fit. Many use that opportunity to re-cast themselves and appear to be angels. You get a pretty good insight into his life but you do feel that you are only seeing 80% of it. The 80% he wants you to see, and that is absolutely fine. He doesn't owe us anything because he's given the nation and his fans more than they could have ever wished for. Our tabloid world would probably love to see him out doing the dirt on his misses and leaving a broken family behind, but the truth is that it sounds like he enjoys nothing more than a night in with the wife watching TV and hanging out with good friends.
My favourite Dricco moment is not the tries or the fancy offloads but a tackle against England. I remember it perfectly, he was absolutely destroyed with a late shoulder and out for the count. You would have presumed he'd have to leave the field. As the play continues though he's off and running away from the physio to help his team mates. Despite being half dead he makes the saving tackle and does so a number of times as Ireland go onto beat the English. My favourite Dricco story not in the book was told to me by a good friend. Driving over Leeson Street bridge in the snow the wheels of his car started spinning and going nowhere. Out of a car behind pops a young man who pushes the car up over the hill and wishes them safe travels once the car is moving again. Not only was it Ireland Captain Brian O'Driscoll, but 3 days earlier he had broken his jaw in a match playing Argentina. Having raw skill is one thing but using it as part of a team is another. It is why Roy and Brian will probably always be rated higher than Rory and Katie. They were brilliant, but they were also the ultimate team players. Not individuals.
You almost want to find something bad out about Dricco but you don't. The book cements what you already knew, that he was and is a legend. I'm sure he has bad traits like not cleaning his arse properly the odd time or leaving the cap off the toothpaste, but so does everybody. We were very lucky to have him as a player and an Irishman and to remind you of that I'd encourage you to read the book.