O'Connell the Lionheart: "You have to try and win it moment by moment"

O'Connell the Lionheart: "You have to try and win it moment by moment"
Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell

Paul O’Connell hopes his rousing pep talk to Darren Clarke’s “Lions” will help the Europe resist a US “onslaught”, seize “the moment” and complete a Ryder Cup Grand Slam.

The Ireland and Lions legend is hoping he can match Pádraig Harrington, who spoke to the Irish rugby squad for an hour and they went on to win the Grand Slam for only the second time in 2009.

O’Connell said: “Padraig came into us in 2009 and he was incredible. He gave us a list of books we all should read — the 'Power of the Subconscious Mind' was one, the motivational speaker Denis Waitley was another one. 

“You wouldn’t have even heard of these books. But I read them all. They were brilliant. And we ended up having a brilliant Q&A with him afterwards. 

“He put a lot of work in. It was for Ireland. We won the Grand Slam that year.”

With Europe bidding for a fourth successive Ryder Cup win this week, captain Clarke asked former Lions skipper O’Connell to speak to the team about the keys to winning in hostile, enemy territory.

Clarke said: “Paul most definitely was exceptional in the team room last night. Any man that leads the British Lions who are playing overseas all the time, they play away from home; as the people from Europe that know rugby, they are the traveling side. 

“So to get his input and his vision on what it took to make a successful traveling side was very impressive.

“The caddies, the players, everybody in that room; you could have heard a pin drop whenever Paul was addressing them.”

Modest O’Connell played down his role but admitted that getting the team to think well psychologically is key to winning away from home.

He said: “Darren’s whole thing is shoulder to shoulder and creating a team element. I suppose they want to be a team that can survive an onslaught or survive coming under pressure from good golf by the Americans or the American support and to do that you need to be a tight unit, you need to be a team. 

“That’s probably something that is not second nature to them, probably some of the guys that have played European Ryder Cup golf are used to, six of the guys something they are not used to. So we were chatting on that theme — on going shoulder to shoulder.

“I just chatted to the guys about the bad experiences and some of the good experiences; why some of them worked and why some of them didn’t.

“When you play away you have to realise that once you cross that white line, you are on a pitch that is the same dimensions as every other pitch. 

“A lot of the pressure you can be under when you play away from home is something you create for yourself. 

"The big thing is not to get too far ahead of yourself. You have to try and win it moment by moment and for these guys, that’s the main psychological skill a golfer has to have.”

Rookie Matthew Fitzpatrick confessed he was inspired, especially when O’Connell spoke of seizing the moment.

Describing O’Connell’s address as “just really inspirational,” Fitzpatrick added “The big thing that I took out personally was talking about owning the moment. That was big for me. 

“You’ve got turning points in the round of golf and you have to take advantage of it. 

"If your opponent misses the green and it's a tricky up-and-down, you've got to stick one in close and put the pressure on, and just holing the putts at the right time I think is important.

“That's the big thing I took out from Paul is to own each moment that you get in front of you.”

Clarke revealed that 6 feet 7 1/2 inch giant O’Connell did not try to intimidate his team by towering over them.

He said: “It was quite interesting, because Paul is a very large man, 6'7", 6'7" and a half. And he's big in stature. But whenever Paul addressed the team, he sat down. 

“He didn't stand up. He didn't feel the need to stand up and intimidate anybody. He brought himself down on the same level as everybody else.

“The team and the caddies were unbelievably impressed with the words that he gave us last night, so I was very, very thankful for him to come along and do that. The guys were thoroughly inspired.”

O’Connell — a former four handicapper who now plays off 11 at Limerick, Lahinch and Adare — said he tried to impress on golfers who play just for themselves, the importance of relying on a team mate.

He said: “For me, pressure is having to rely on yourself; for them, the pressure is probably being involved in a team, so it is very different that way. 

“I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with them afterwards, had a bit of grub with them, got to see Dynamo the magician’s stuff. 

“They have a team room very similar to what we would have with the Irish rugby team, for me that is something I would take for granted and the fun and banter they were having is something i take for being part and parcel of my job, whereas for them it is part of the Ryder Cup and only the Ryder Cup. It was a fantastic experience.

“I’d rather not go into the details of it, but I spoke for a while and did a Q&A after, had a bit of fun as well.

“They were quiet in anyway, I hope they were absorbed, I suppose some of the guys from the continent were probably wondering who the hell I was but look they seemed to get something out of it, seemed to have a good chat as well out of it. 

“So, seemed to be in great form, really enjoying each others company, seemed to be up for the battle.”