Ireland’s rugby stars have drawn inspiration from golfer Padraig Harrington’s thrilling British Open win ahead of their tilt at the World Cup title in September and October.
A golfer of some repute, Ireland lock Paul O’Connell played off a handicap of four as a youngster and was delighted to see Harrington lift the Claret Jug at Carnoustie on Sunday.
“It was brilliant. It’s definitely an inspiration to Irish guys to see these guys perform so well on the world stage – to see Padraig beating everyone and saying that he knew all week that he was going to win.
“I love that kind of confidence and to see an Irish person saying that is great,” commented O’Connell at the launch of Munster’s new kit.
Having helped Ireland win three Triple Crowns in four seasons, O’Connell has noticed a change in attitude not just in his team-mates but in other Irish sportsmen and women as they compete more regularly for world honours.
“It’s an attitude that we’re beginning to see more and more in Ireland. I think we’re always ‘cap in hand’, very humble in everything we do. I hope we never lose that, but I think it’s great to have confidence as well. You saw that in Padraig – he was so modest afterwards but he had that confidence all the time.
“I see that change in attitude maybe because I just look for it more. You see it in (world champion hurdler) Derval O’Rourke for example. She seems ruthless in the pursuit of her goals. She apologises to no one. Padraig is the same.
“And guys like Roy Keane. It’s great from an Irish perspective to see these people doing it their own way and better than anyone else in the world,” added O’Connell, who said he would send Harrington a congratulatory email as he “doesn’t want to be ringing him up, trying to be his best friend now that he’s won.”
Another Irish international on hand to help launch Munster’s new adidas kit in Clare was out-half Ronan O’Gara who admitted to getting emotional as he watched Harrington’s victory on television.
“Padraig’s win was incredible. When he went into the water for the second time at the 18th, I thought he was gone. But his up-and-down was sensational.
“It’s great to see Irish sportsmen achieving on the world stage. There is no reason why we should not be thinking of things like that for us as a rugby team. In the past, it was all about: ‘let’s give it a lash.’
“Now we work as hard as anyone, we have resources and talent to match the best. If we all believe in ourselves, there is no limit to what we can achieve,” said O’Gara.
“Our target is to win the World Cup and we should not be afraid of saying that. The chance of winning the World Cup doesn’t come along often in life. You have to make sure you are as ready as you can be.
“For me, that means putting everything into preparation Monday to Friday. If it doesn’t happen on match day then you can still look yourself in the eye. If you cut corners, then you are a liar and a cheat to yourself,” conceded O’Gara, who suffered a minor knee injury recently.
“The knee is alright. I did a bit of nerve damage to it, but there was no structural or ligament damage. It’s not 100 per cent right yet but I will be back in full training next week.”
Eddie O’Sullivan’s Ireland squad will step up their World Cup preparations with training camps in Limerick and Dublin over the next fortnight, before taking on Scotland and Italy in two warm-up internationals on August 11 and 24.