10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Recalling his early days with Munsters, he said: "Paul was a super talent. You could see what an athlete he was.
"With his rise to success, obviously the club name has gone with him and we're very proud of him here.
"He's a leader, he's a born leader. You can see that with Munster.
"Whereas Brian O'Driscoll is a super captain as well, I just feel that Paul's position in the pack is something that the Lions management are looking for in terms of a captain.
"Of old and historically they have gone for a forward and that obviously helped him. He's the right man for the job."
And the Cookies received a further boost when another of their Munster and Ireland-capped players, centre Keith Earls, was included in the 37-man Lions squad.
Thomond will also deservedly share in Earls' delight, with him having roots with the club also.
The 29-year-old O'Connell was unavailable to attend Young Munster's nail-biting 17-14 win over UCD last Saturday, which maintained their Division One status in the AIB League, but he was in touch with Edwards via text message throughout the afternoon.
The Munster skipper last lined out for Young Munster's first team in January 2008 when he made his comeback from a back injury which had sidelined him since the Rugby World Cup.
O'Connell had a 35-minute run-out that day at a muddy Greenfields as the Cookies claimed a 12-10 win over Buccaneers.