Munster 200 Club | Donncha O’Callaghan
16th June 2020 By The Editor
In our series profiling the players who have reached the 200-cap landmark for Munster, we take a look back at the careers of the 11 Munster men who played over 200 games for the province.
Donncha O’Callaghan is the province’s record appearance holder with 268 Munster caps and became the ninth man to make 200 appearances in April 2012.
Donncha followed Anthony Foley, Alan Quinlan, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, John Hayes, David Wallace, Marcus Horan and Mick O’Driscoll in reaching 200 caps, you can read more about their careers below.
See more info on the careers of the 200 Club below.
Donncha O’Callaghan – 268 Munster caps (1998 – 2015)
Munster’s most capped player of all time, Donncha O’Callaghan made 268 appearances for the province over 17 seasons having come up through the ranks at Highfield, CBC and Cork Constitution.
The Cork-native made his Munster debut against Edinburgh Reivers in August 1998 at 19 years of age and two months later made his European debut against Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral.
In his time with the province he won two Heineken Cups, in 2006 and 2008, a Celtic League and 2 Magners League titles in 2003, 2009 and 2011 respectively, and a Celtic Cup in 2005.
On the international front O’Callaghan first tasted success at U19 level when winning the World Championship in 1998. He went on to make his senior debut against Wales in March 2003 and has made 94 appearances for his country.
Over an 11-year period he played his role in Ireland’s three Triple Crown successes and played every minute of Ireland’s Grand Slam winning campaign in 2009. In playing at every level he has featured in three World Cups, represented the Lions on two series (2005 and 2009), captaining the side to victory over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth in 2009, and represented the Barbarians in June 2014.
A native of Bishopstown in Cork, he first took to the rugby field at Highfield RFC. Making the move to CBC in his teens, the promising youngster soon made an impact in the Schools game and was part of the Christians side that defeated St. Munchin’s to become the 1998 Clayton Hotels Munster Schools Senior Cup champions.
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 the late Garrett Fitzgerald coaching the school’s senior side.
1998 also saw him included in the Ireland Schools side before winning the U19 World Championship 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 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.
In 2014 he fulfilled another childhood ambition in playing for the Barbarians and sported his Cork Constitution socks while defeating an England XV in Twickenham.
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.
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 walked 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.
After departing Munster for Worcester Warriors in 2015, O’Callaghan played for a further three seasons and made 63 appearances along with winning Worcester’s Player of the Year award in 2016 and 2017.
In 2018 he returned to work with Munster as a Corporate Ambassador.