Munster Lions
Lions Captain Paul O'Connell
Billy Stickland
Munster Lions
4 April 2009, 9:48 am
By Pat Geraghty
Early indications that Paul O'Connell would captain the Lions came on Monday evening when it was being reported that he had been seen making his way through Heathrow Airport, obviously now, en route to a meeting with the Lions management.
And while O'Connell was awaiting to be 'revealed' at the squad announcement, his Munster colleagues and expectant Lions were in their relative centres, Cork and Limerick, going about their normal gym preparation for the games ahead, particularly tomorrow's crucial Magners League encounter with the Scarlets.

In Cork, Donncha O'Callaghan and Tomas O'Leary sat with Academy and sub-Academy players at the gym facility at Forge Hill, all eyes glued to the television in the players lounge while Ronan O'Gara tried to nonchalantly go about the business of practicing his kicking in the company of Jeremy Manning and Doug Howlett in nearby Musgrave Park.

And even though O'Callaghan and O'Gara were everyone's nomination in the run up to the announcement, neither were taking anything for granted. All candidates had been informed that they would not get prior notice of their selection as had been the case in the past when they had been texted either the night before or in the morning of the announcement. In order to gain maximum effect for their viewership Sky News had gained agreement with Lions management that everyone, players and the great unwashed, would hear the squad on their 1.30pm bulletin.

So O'Callaghan admitted, that when it came to 1.15 or so and he had heard nothing from anyone, he began to get anxious. "Absolutely. I was starting to worry when I hadn't heard anything. I know they told us how it would be done but still I thought yeh right but there will be some bit of word before that. But no nothing. So I was there with the Academy boys, me and O'Leary, and I'm thinking, this isn't the place to be. What'll I do in front of these lads if I'm not picked."

"Then Gerald Davies starts to read out the names and when he calls out Mike Phillips, Harry Ellis, Leary goes, 'Oh no', thinking that's his chance's gone cause they'll just bring two 9s but straight away his name is called and he's jumping up an down going Yeeeeees."Tomas O'Leary

"My case wasn't helped when Fogs switched channels just after that but he switched back just in time for me to hear my name and, ah well, I was just delighted. But after that you think of the lads not selected, teammates, and realise just how lucky you are."

Over in Musgrave Park, in the end O'Gara gave up the pretence. "Ya, I said to Dougie, come on, into the jeep, turn on the radio, and I heard it there. It's my third trip but you never take anything for granted in this game. I'm delighted of course, delighted for everyone and at the same time gutted for a few of the boys, Marcus, John and Leams, who didn't make the cut."

Keith EarlsAfterwards the three Lions assembled in the Maryborough House Hotel, for media interview and O'Gara was particularly effusive in his praise of the Lions cub Keith Earls. "To succeed in this game, a lot is about attitude and Earlsy has that in abundance. A smashing young fella. Tremendous ability. Always prepared to listen. Always ready to learn. He comes from good stock."

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