And the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor goes to ……

Mick O’Driscoll!

Hardly a name that will be remembered by generations of Irish rugby fans. But it should be – Micko is a stalwart of the professional era, and reached a significant milestone on Saturday night when he earned his 200th cap for Munster, fittingly as captain, in his 12th season (he spent 2 years in Catalunya from 2003-05). The domestique of Irish rugby, he puts in the dirty minutes in an empty Rodney Parade and unquestioningly returns to the bench when Thomond Park fills up for big European nights. It’s Farrelly-esque to say that someone never gives less than 100% and never lets anyone down, but it is appropriate for Micko.

Micko’s professionalism and durability is remarkable, and he most certainly will be able to retire saying he made the most of his talent. It’s worth noting that Micko has never been first choice in his Munster career, being stuck behind Gaillimh, John Langford, Paulie, Stakhanov O’Callaghan and recently Donnacha Ryan, yet the majority of his 200 caps have been as a starter, which shows the trust that multiple coaches have put in Micko to lead the Celtic/Magners/Rabo league dirt trackers.

His best years were assuredly the 3 seasons from 2008-2011 where he led Munster to 2 league titles, consistently out-performed Stakhanov and famously played on an almost-but-not-quite night against New Zealand, when he was simply sensational, leading a team shorn of 10 internationals to within minutes of a stunning victory over a team containing Cory Jane, Joe Rokocoko, Kieran Read and, errrr, Thomas the Tank Engine’s brother (Ooooooohhh!!).

The moment that we will never forget is in 2009, when Munster lifted the Magners League trophy. The occasion was set to a desperately disappointing backdrop, being in the shadow of that defeat to Leinster, but Micko led the troops to yet another win, and, fittingly, was invited by provincial captain Paulie to lift the trophy. The class of the occasion was only matched by the Paul Derbyshire moment after the 2011 win.

Of the 23 players used by Ireland to win the 2009 Grand Slam, only 1 played zero minutes – Micko; yet you never would have worried if either of the second rows had pulled up injured (well, maybe a little if Paulie got hurt), such was his reliability. And if he owed his place to Mal O’Kelly’s errant timekeeping as much as his own qualities, well that’s not his lookout.  He did come off the bench in both HEC finals, but, unsurprisingly, and uncomplainingly, didn’t start either. For such a committed player in a notoriously dirty position, it’s also worth noting that his recent yellow card against Treviso was only his second ever and his first in 6 years, playing and thriving in a physical side not renowned for their discipline.

If only there was some term to convey the almost mythical, fabled, nature of his contribution… 

Mick O’Driscoll – we salute you!

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