How long does O’Driscoll have left at the top

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Updated: November 6, 2011

With the news emanating over the weekend that Brian O’Driscoll could be set for a extended period on the sidelines to cure a long standing shoulder/neck injury, SportsNewsIreland looks at how long does Ireland’s greatest ever player left before he decides to hang up his boots.

As Leinster prepares to open the defence of the Heineken cup against Montpellier they will head over to France without their star centre and Joel Schmidt will surely now be worried that time is running out in the career of his talisman.

O’Driscoll may still be only 32, and in many people’s eyes he has a number of years left in him, but the question has to be asked can Ireland’s record try scorer continue to remain at the top or should he bow out with his status as one of the world’s best ever players assured.

The O’Driscoll camp will no doubt be confident that this latest shoulder injury is nothing more than a short term set back but how long can he maintain the standards he has set over the years.

The Grand Slam and Heineken cup winner has enjoyed a fantastic career and with a list of personal accolades that includes the top Irish try scorer in Heineken cup rugby, the top try scorer in 6 Nations history, Rugby World magazine’s player of the decade, 6 nations player of the tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2009 not to mention appearing in any top 10 player list thats published, O’Driscoll has achieved so much in his career.

However time is definitely not on his side anymore and with an international reputation as a player who willingly puts his body on the line for this province and country it remains to be seen how much more punishment his 5ft 10 “ frame can take.

An early career that was affected by tight hamstrings has been replaced by knee and shoulder injury, the years of big hits and hard running leaving their marks on the player.

It would be a shame to see a player of his calibre try and eke out his career to the point where his greatness is diminished and although the retirement won’t be on his mind just yet; the disappointment of the World cup defeat to Wales means that he has unfinished business in the 2012 6 Nations, thats means it would be just 18 months to the 2013 Lions Tour, at which point O’Driscoll will be 34, and that could be the perfect swansong to go out of International rugby on.

O’Driscoll also has some unfinished Lions business, the shoulder injury sustained as a result of THAT spear tackle means he ended his captain’s tour as an off field captain and while he is unlikely that he would get another stint as captain, to be involved in Australia would make it a remarkable fourth tour for the popular centre.

A successful career outside the pitch beckons, his leadership qualities will no doubt earmark him as a future manager be it at club or International level although with his clean cut image the Clontarf native would be just as comfortable in a RTE or Sky studio.

Either way sooner or later the time is going to come when Irish and Leinster fan’s will have to get used to watching their team walk out with their favourite number 13.

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