Brian O'Driscoll: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

Matthew MaloneyCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

In 2005, when Brian O'Driscoll (BOD), Lions captain, was controversially spear tackled by the ferocious All Blacks double team of Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu, his Lions campaign ended instantly with a dislocated shoulder.

The following infamous 'blackwash' rubbed salt in the wounds for the Lions skipper as the Lions received an embarrassing 3-0 series drubbing.

Brian O'Driscoll was left to contemplate life on the sidelines, an all too familiar story ever since, as BOD became increasingly injury prone.

That period was to proove a key turning point in his career of the, up until then, seemingly meteoric rise of BOD to the Valhalla of international rugby.

For his beloved Leinster, Declan Kidney was to unceremoniously fail and then leave for perennial rivals Munster that same season leaving Leinster to chance their arm on a then relatively unknown Michael Cheika.  

It was then French rugby came calling to O'Driscoll as he faced a nadir in his professional career in the summer of 2006. And in the great what ifs of Irish rugby history he choose to stay and contribute to the Michael Cheika experiment, for better or worse.

The going was initially rough. Ulster and then the Ospreys were to clinch the Magners league title and O'Driscoll as captain of the Ireland team, would reach their own nadir in the Rugby World Cup in 2007, subsequent failure in the six nations in 2008 leading to the end of the up until then successful reign of Eddie O'Sullivan, the current USA rugby coach.

But then the first shoots from the ashes begun to spring up for BOD.

A Magners League title eventually would be claimed in 2008 but the real story of the rise of the phoenix was to take place during this season.

Relinquishing the Leinster captaincy to Leo Cullen, with a new coach yet old mentor in charge of Ireland in the form of Declan Kidney and with a well publiscised loss in weight, BOD would go on to have his most wildly successful season ever.

A historic Grand Slam followed where BOD would win player of the tournament scoring a try in every game bar the climatic finale in Cardiff.

For Leinster, although they effectively relinquished the Magners League in a loss to Munster in April (in which BOD missed out through injury), they would claim for the first time in their history the European Cup after defeating Leicester in memorable fashion.

The new BOD is a different animal. Defensively BOD, much like his club has toughened considerably. His amazing try scoring ability has returned but with a new threat - drop goal kicking. He has lost weight leading to tries like the intercept tries he scored against Italy and Munster.

Most interestingly he is not a player for the limelight anymore. He passed up the Leinster captaincy to Cullen and the Lions captaincy went to Paul O'Connell after discussions with Ian McGeechan and his international teammate.

And so full circle, karma, has come around. Although Umaga and Mealamu have long sinced retired, the physical intimidation of World Champions South Africa awaits the Lions tour of 2009.

This tour will top of what has already been a dream like season for the Ireland captain. If they win his place in Rugby Valhalla will be incontestable, and if they lose, those demons from that fateful day in Christchurch may come back to haunt him.

Congratulations to BOD and the boys for a fantastic season for this Leinster and Ireland fan and best of luck to the Lions this summer. Here's hoping BOD, the phoenix and the Lion will come full circle from the ashes of 2005.