Paul O'Connell turned 22 last October. He was educated in Ard Scoil Ris and played for the Ireland Schools side in their three April 1998 internationals, partnered Des by Dillon (Connacht). In February/March of 2000 he played in all five of Ireland's Under 21 games, this time partnered by Donncha O'Callaghan, in a side that included Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Paddy Wallace (Ulster) and Jeremy Staunton (Munster).
This time last year he lined out with the Ireland Students at The Mardyke when they drew 22 all with their French counterparts. His partner then was Aidan Kearney (Ulster).
With a full time Munster contract under his belt he won his first A international cap as a replacement against the All Blacks in Ravenhill. He was in the starting line up for Munster in the Celtic League final, got his first Heineken Cup start against Bridgend in Musgrave Park and his second against Stade Francais in Paris.
According to Niall O'Donovan, the Ireland and Munster forwards coach, "nothing at all phases him, he's dead cool all the time." and on Sunday Irish captain Mick Galwey has no doubt about his partner, " He'll be grand. He has Frankie throwing him the ball, Hayes and Foley lifting him and Stringer to give it to. He'll be grand. This season any challenge he's met he's come out on top. Last week he was up against Auradou and he got the better of that duel. There won't be a fear of him."
On a day when his Young Munster teammate Peter Clohessy wins his 50th cap, Paul O'Connell will win the first of many.