Bono and Paul O'Connell answer Ireland's call

U2 frontman and former Ireland captain, O’Connell, appear in Ireland’s camp ahead of Sunday’s showdown against England.

BOTH MEN HAVE big voices, Bono and Paul O’Connell. They each have a presence, too, so in a sense it was no surprise that Andy Farrell, the Ireland head coach, should have called them into camp to break the tedium of game-week.

Bono sang briefly to the squad. “I’m not telling you which tune,” Conor Murray said. What’s clear is Farrell is using these guest appearances to get all his players singing off the same sheet. “He’s quite a private person, was top of our wishlist, and when we invited him in we were blown away by the fact he was prepared to give up so much of his time to come and speak to us,” Farrell said.

“He’s a proud Irishman. He talked about his Irishness.”

Screenshot 2020-02-19 at 15.05.18 Source: Johnny Sexton/Instagram

There’s a logic to all this.

Under Joe Schmidt, Ireland had a clear identity. They were schooled, hard to beat although not particularly easy to watch. Farrell was Schmidt’s assistant and if he wants to create a distinction between the old regime and the new one, then he has to try new things. This, though, was not a gimmick, argued Jacob Stockdale.

“Far from it,” said Stockdale. “Faz (Farrell) is keen to give us a bit of an identity. He’s doing that through our training but also through things like bringing Bono in to speak with us. Last night he talked about what it means to be Irish, what is special about it. It’s something we as a team are really buying into.”

Certainly Murray, the team’s scrum half, is a convert. “He got the seal of approval from me, that is for sure,” Murray said of the experience. “We got a lot out of it. It was just cool to hear him talk about his life experiences and you realise what he has done, outside of music, in terms of charity and the people he has dealt with politically. He has a huge personality and it was unbelievable to hear him speak. He’s articulate, intelligent and it was an unbelievable experience to learn from him.”

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paul-oconnell-with-james-ryan Paulie speaking to James Ryan. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s a rare thing for O’Connell to be a support-act but even a former Ireland and Lions captain struggles to compare with a former Time person of the year. Still, his presence in camp as an observer to proceedings this week has gone down well. “You could see the boys gravitating towards him increasingly as the week went on,” Farrell said. “He’s good for sharing his experiences, giving us a fresh perspective on things.”

This was Murray’s impression of O’Connell: “He has been great. I haven’t chatted to him too much but for the lads who don’t know him that well, it’s similar to Bono in a way. Just having a guy like that, it’s great to have him around the camp.”

And here is what Stockdale had to say: “It’s clear to see the respect he still has around the camp with the guys who have played with. He is trying to get an idea of what the culture of the group is about. Anything we can do better, we’re interested in it.”

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Garry Doyle

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