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Donncha O’Callaghan Through The Years

3rd September 2015 By Munster Rugby

Donncha O’Callaghan Through The Years

Further reflection and picture highlights of 17 unforgettable and trailblazing seasons for Donncha O’Callaghan in the red of Munster.

Further reflection and picture highlights of 17 unforgettable and trailblazing seasons for Donncha O’Callaghan in the red of Munster.

CLICK HERE to see our gallery of Donncha O’Callaghan through the years at Munster.

A native of Bishopstown in Cork, he first took to the rugby field at Highfield RFC under the auspices of underage coach Finny O’Regan who to this very day is still nurturing the next generation of rugby players as a Community Rugby Officer with Munster Rugby. Never one to forget his roots in club rugby, just last July O’Callaghan returned to his childhood club and took to twitter in recognising the wonderful start that O’Regan had given him.

25 years on & my underage coach Finny O'Regan is still coaching kids to play and love rugby.What a special man.#hero pic.twitter.com/AfUKFPLbLO

— Donncha O'Callaghan (@docallaghan4) July 9, 2015

Making the move to CBC, Cork in his teens, the promising youngster soon made an impact in the Schools game and was part of the Christians side that defeated St. Munchins to become the 1998 Munster Schools Senior Cup champions at Musgrave Park – now Irish Independent Park. It would be the first of many career milestones that O’Callaghan reached at the Cork venue and also marked his first rugby involvement with Munster Rugby CEO Garrett Fitzgerald who at the time was coach of the school’s senior side.

O’Callaghan’s exploits for his school paved the way not only for provincial honours, but were also the inception of an esteemed career in the green of Ireland. 1998 also saw him included in the Ireland Schools side before winning the U19 World Championship alongside the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Paddy Wallace the following year.

Making his Irish senior debut against Wales in March 2003, an honours-laden-decade later, O’Callaghan became Ireland’s most capped second row, overtaking Malcolm O’Kelly, when lining out against Scotland in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations at Murrayfield – a record since surpassed by Paul O’Connell. In total, the lock won 94 Irish caps, played at three World Cups, won four Triple Crowns – ‘04, ‘06, ‘07 and ’09 – and was an integral part of the 2009 side that claimed Ireland’s first Grand Slam since 1948.

Adding to his international credentials, O’Callaghan travelled on two British and Irish Lions tours, lining out as a test player against New Zealand and South Africa and captaining the touring side to victory over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on the latter tour of 2009. As recently as last year, the 36 year old fulfilled another childhood ambition in playing for the Barbarians and sported his Cork Constitution socks while defeating an England XV in Twickenham.

Best wishes to @docallaghan4 as he departs @Munsterrugby. A gentleman and a true professional. Thanks Donncha! pic.twitter.com/dJvR6r3GmE

— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) September 3, 2015

Behind it all, laying the foundation for his international triumphs was a record breaking provincial career with his native Munster. Following in the footsteps of his older brother and former Munster player, Ultan, as a young buck he played his senior club rugby with Cork Con and donned the famous red jersey for the first time against Edinburgh Reivers in August 1998.

Making his Munster debut in Cork, no doubt Musgrave/Irish Independent Park will forever hold a special place in the heart of O’Callaghan, the venue that also witnessed his last provincial appearance – against London Irish last Friday – and saw him become Munster’s most capped player – overtaking Ronan O’Gara – when winning his 241st cap against Zebre in February 2014.

A veteran of so many memorable league and European contests in Limerick, including the 2003 Miracle Match win over Gloucester, Thomond Park will also hold many fond memories for the Munster talisman, as will Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium where he clinched league, European and Grand Slam titles with province and country.

Across 17 seasons, the 6’ 6’’ powerhouse made a total of 268 appearances, scoring eight tries, and walks away from his time at Munster with an impressive haul of six winners’ medals across all competitions. Successful league campaigns netted O’Callaghan and his teammates the Celtic League in ‘03, the Celtic Cup in ’05 and two Magners League titles in ’09 and ’11. However, what will stand out most in the memory are the Heineken Cup triumphs of ’06 and ’08 and the Munster giant is fully deserving of his place in European Cup history with more top-flight appearances than any other second row – 96 European caps.

One of a kind! Wishing @docallaghan4 all the best with his move to @WorcsWarriors 17years, 268caps #FarewellDonncha pic.twitter.com/wJZuGJImjq

— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) September 3, 2015

One man who joined O'Callaghan for most of his illustrious journey was fellow Munster, Ireland and Lions stalwart Paul O'Connell with the Irish captain recently naming the Cork-man as his best second row partner to date. O’Connell described him as, “a man that encapsulates what it means to be a Munster man, true to his values in every way.”

Complimenting his eminent achievements on the field, the endearing nature of O’Callaghan made him a favourite amongst colleagues and fans alike. It was with a heavy heart that each learnt of his departure from the province, but it was with a deep appreciation and affection for a true Munster legend that they wished him all the best for his future rugby endeavours with Worcester Warriors.

#farewelldonncha absolute warrior of the Irish game that epitomises all that is Munster Rugby and the work ethic involved @docallaghan4

— Lorcanyouimagine (@lorcanod) September 3, 2015

Huge presence on the pitch & larger than life character off it. Thanks DOC ? Best of luck in Worcester! #FarewellDonncha

— Ian Falconer (@IKFalconer) September 3, 2015

Speaking about his mutual love and appreciation for Munster and its fans, the man himself commented, “I'm forever grateful to those in Munster and Irish Rugby that put the structures in place all the way up, and most importantly, the people that have influenced and shaped me not only as a player but as a person.

“I would like to thank the Munster supporters – for over 17 years you have lifted me to play beyond myself and I look forward to going back and joining you in my first role with Munster, as a supporter.”

It was announced this morning that O’Callaghan will join English Premiership outfit Worcester Warriors on a two year deal. Read the full statement here.

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