“You’re never content, are you?” Brian O’Driscoll shuffles in his chair, sporting a wide grin and a sparkle in his eye. His smile breaks into a deep laugh. “That’d be ridiculous.”
The Irish rugby legend has evolved following his retirement. His days of bursting through waves of opponents are over, and he’s here to talk about exactly that in a brand new documentary airing on BT Sport.
After The Roar is a film from a production company co-founded by O’Driscoll himself, 3 Rock Productions, and draws back the curtain on elite sportsmen’s lives after the show is over, after the lights are flicked off and the cameras stop rolling.
Horse racing icon AP McCoy, England cricket superstar Jonny Bairstow and current England manager Gareth Southgate are among the subjects of this important documentary that aims to dissect the emotions, the reality, the trauma and even the opportunities presented by retirement from a range of perspectives – from those long-retired and those with careers looking towards the sunset.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, O’Driscoll spoke about some of the themes and differences that connect the high-profile stars he interviews in the film.
He said: “Everyone has such high expectations of themselves. They want to push themselves to the limits, extract as much out of their natural talents as they possibly can. Some people are more successful than others.
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“You look at someone like AP, Champion Jockey 20 years in a row. In our lifetime, those records will never be broken. You contrast that with someone like Anthony Ogogo, who had it all taken away from him before his world title shot, something he aspired to be as a kid.
“There are two extremes. Which is worse? Someone who had it all and doesn’t get to live that anymore, or someone who never quite achieves what they want so the fall hasn’t been as significant but inspires a different emotion.
“You counter that with the likes of Gareth Southgate who has had more success in his second iteration, as a football manager. And you’ve also got Jonny Bairstow whose retirement isn’t imminent, but it’s coming down the line and he’s dealing with the fact that his father, when he retired from professional cricket, took his own life.”
O’Driscoll is keen to stress that while many of the stories told and characters observed bear some commonalities, each journey looks very different.
McCoy’s interview is a particular highlight of the documentary. He details how he continues to maintain rigorous early morning routines aboard his horses. He would clearly love nothing more than to roll back his body clock and go again.
The Northern Irish jockey tentatively jokes about others aiming for his records and accolades, but his genuine concerns are thinly veiled. The 48-year-old suggests he hopes he is no longer around to see his achievements improved – although McCoy may be able to find peace in the fact that nobody is likely to come close to winning 20 consecutive jump racing Champion Jockey titles any time soon .
There is a clear elite mentality running throughout this crop of sports stars. It may seem alien to you or I, the fan in the stand, the reporter in the box. The hunger to win is insatiable, but a beast accustomed to feasts must now go without. And O’Driscoll does an excellent job exposing both the characters of the men involved, and how they have learned to tame the need for the roar.
However, while O’Driscoll is the lead explorer in this documentary and does bear vulnerabilities throughout, he is predominantly asking the questions. Given the bombardment of threats that could gnaw at his own mental health, how has his own retirement story developed?
He said: “I think [my post-retirement journey] had some peaks and troughs. There was some sadness, there was some disappointment, there was a bit of envy. Time, definitely, has allowed me to step away and really enjoy rugby as a supporter and as a fan but that has not necessarily always been the case in the first few years where a bit of the ego in you wants to be missed, and all of a sudden the team is smashing it and the guy who replaced you is flying and you’re like, ‘OK, no need to be that good!’
“It was challenging at times but right when I retired, I went and saw someone just to get a bit of advice to deal with coping mechanisms and how I was going to feel sadness at times. I’m glad I did.
“I’m a lot more at peace with it. I’m a lot more chilled out. And I think COVID has had a big impact on that, not just time away from the game.
“I’ve definitely mellowed a lot in the last two years. That has been through the helpfulness of this documentary, of seeing commonalities with other sportsmen, but also the slowdown of life and the appreciation for enjoying those smaller things and enjoying life through the eyes of my kids as well. You can’t replace being in front of 80,000, 90,000 people roaring you on, making a big hit or scoring an important try.
“Good luck trying to chase the replacement for that. You have got to park it, leave it as a moment in time – long moment in time – but then just find enjoyment in other ways.
“I’m trying to add purpose and value to all the things I’m involved in, it doesn’t always have to be the winning try. That part of my life is gone and I can’t do anything about it.”
After The Roar, the latest in the BT Sport Films series, will premiere on Friday 23rd September at 10pm on BT Sport 1 – watch After the Roar with a BT Sport monthly pass.
If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV Guide or visit our Sport hub for all the latest news.
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