Donncha O’Callaghan enjoyed a glittering career with both Munster and Ireland with two Heineken Cups and a Grand Slam just some of the achievements under the belt.
However, the towering second row was known for more than just his performances on the pitch. During his time in the spotlight, the charismatic O’Callaghan garnered a reputation as a jokester and the ‘class clown’ of his squads.
It was a nametag he tried to deny to a certain extent in his 2011 autobiography ‘Joking Apart’ written with Denis Walsh, insisting that nothing was more serious to him than rugby. Nevertheless, he outlined a number of occasions when the reputation was more than justified.
One such episode involved O’Callaghan and his group of messers, a Munster training camp, and a pond full of ducks…
“Pulling pranks or being part of pranks has been part of me as long as I can remember”, O’Callaghan began, “practical jokes have always been my thing.”
Munster had traveled to the Breaffy House Hotel in Mayo for a training camp and with some time off one afternoon, the Cork man found himself at a loose end and he was bored. “A lethal combination”, as he admits.
“It started off innocently. There was a pond in the grounds of the hotel and we took cornflakes from the Munster team room to feed the ducks”, O’Callaghan explained.
“The ducks were delighted and we soon realised that they would follow the cornflakes if we set a trail. We had them halfway up the path when the punch line came to us in a moment of inspiration.”
In a room close to the pond sat Munster’s management team and senior members of the squad devising plans and strategies that would take the side forward. In true O’Callaghan style, he couldn’t resist a slight interruption.
“It dawned on us that we could entice the ducks up to the door of the meeting room and hunt them inside. In the end they needed a bit of encouragement from the boot of our Aussie second row Dave Pusey but the plan worked.”
Needless to say the Munster management got a surprise at the scene that was unfolding in the Mayo conference room as a flock of hungry and excited ducks burst through the door and O’Callaghan following behind.
While it must have been a sight to behold, what started out as an innocent prank royally backfired on him in a not-so-appealing fashion.
“As ever in these situations, you don’t think about the consequences.
“Once they were inside the room, the ducks got a bit of a fright and, loaded up on cornflakes, they started to leave deposits all over the place.
“Jerry Holland was the Munster manager at the time and he caught me red-handed. Hayes and the rest of them had left the scene by then. Holl murdered me and I spent the next couple of hours cleaning up duck droppings.”
Not a pleasant task at the time but one that has made for a great story in the years since.