TWO rugby players, who grew up less than a mile apart, are preparing to hit international milestones against Wales.
Ireland’s Paul O’Connell and Gillian Bourke will receive their 100th and 50th caps respectively for their country this weekend.
Paul, who hails from Drombanna, and Gillian, from Ballyneety, are the talk of the parish of Donoughmore--Knockea-Roxborough this week ahead of massive milestones in their sporting careers.
Proud dad Tony Bourke said it was “so unique” to have both preparing to receive such honours.
“We are only a mile, less than a mile to Paul’s, where he was reared, it is unreal,” smiled Tony, who travels everywhere with the women’s rugby team to watch his daughter, who plays hooker.
“It is the talk of the parish – it is a great honour for a small parish, one getting 100 caps and the other getting 50. It is marvellous and we are very proud of her,” he said.
“Lots of people have been passing on best wishes for her in the area, it is very good. We are hoping for the best.”
Irish captain Paul will join fellow Limerickman John Hayes in the 100-cap club when he leads his country out in the Millennium Stadium at 2.30pm on Saturday.
The Munster and Irish legend admitted in an interview with the Limerick Leader last week that, in the lows of his injury periods – the most recent of which saw him miss almost six months of rugby in late 2012 and early 2013 – he doubted if he would ever reach such a significant milestone.
“It feels great,” he said of the prospective 100th cap. “I think with injuries a few years ago I never thought I would get there, the way things were going about three or four years ago. So to be getting there and getting there in a position where Ireland are going well is great.”
Speaking this week, his Dad Michael also admitted that his son “has lasted longer than I expected. It is a great honour really, in fairness to him. It should probably have come a little bit earlier than this but better late than never,” he said.
“It is a lot of matches to make it, with the few injuries and that, you think that he might not make it,” he added.
Paul’s parents Michael and Shelagh will travel over to watch their son lead the team against Wales in the hope of victory.
“It will be very difficult, they have a very good chance if they play up to their best.
“Ireland have a pretty good record there over the years, but it will be on the day,” added Michael.