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Enjoyment Factor Keeps O’Kelly Keen

Enjoyment Factor Keeps O’Kelly Keen

In an interview with Total Rugby Radio this week, Leinster and Ireland’s long-time lock Malcolm O’Kelly spoke about his desire to continue playing at the top level and the possibility of reaching 100 Test caps.

Malcolm O’Kelly turns 34 in July but thoughts of retirement are far away from his mind. The Dubliner has again been one of the driving forces in the Leinster pack this season.

And with the province of the cusp of winning the Magners League title and a summer tour fast approaching, he is evidently keen to add to his record hauls of 142 Leinster caps and 91 Ireland caps.

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“Certainly now, this is a period where I could easily throw in the towel and I would certainly have had a good career. But I think it’s the people I’m with, I’m really enjoying being with the players I’m with at the moment,” O’Kelly admitted.

“Obviously they’re a lot younger than myself but they push themselves to a high standard and have a great skill level.

“I just want to keep playing because I’m part of a winning set-up at the moment.”

The two-time Lions tourist made his Ireland debut against New Zealand in November 1997. Coming up against such greats as Zinzan Brooke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Robin Brooke and Ian Jones, O’Kelly remembers the All Blacks ‘ripping’ Ireland apart in the second half.

He cites the 2000 win over France, when his Leinster colleague Brian O’Driscoll touched down three times, as a pivotal game in Ireland’s development into one of the top teams in modern Test rugby.

“It was just one of those games…the games where we would have normally lost, but suddenly we were winning. I think we just grew and grew in confidence. It came to a stage where we were looking at winning Grand Slams and the belief was there.”

A Grand Slam may have eluded Ireland but O’Kelly, when he does retires, can look back on some memorable wins in a green jersey, particularly in the three Triple Crown-winning seasons.

“We’ve had some great victories against England. We had a Triple Crown victory over there (in 2006), which was immense.

“And a victory against them when they were world champions. We were the first team to beat them after that, that was a nice status thing for us,” said the Chelmsford-born forward.

In February 2005, O’Kelly beat Mike Gibson’s old mark as Ireland’s most-capped player and he remains so, edging closer to the century mark thanks to recent outings against Italy and France.

He could yet become the first Irishman to play 100 senior internationals. If he does so, he would be only the ninth player in world rugby to achieve such a feat.

He added: “There was a stage where I thought that was achieveable. Of course if it does happen, I’d be delighted. I don’t think it’s to the forefront of my mind at the moment, I’ve had a pretty good innings internationally.

“It’s hard to know, with a new Irish coach I suppose anything could happen.

“You’d imagine with it being the second season after a World Cup he’d be looking to draw the line on some of the older players, but I’ll still be plugging away so you never know.”