Fifteen years later and now the most-capped player in the history of the game, Brian O'Driscoll is about to take his leave of the sport, bowing out in tomorrow's RaboDirect PRO12 final against Glasgow Warriors at the Royal Dublin Society Showground. A rugby giant, he will leave us with many fond memories. These are just the best of them.
1 March 19, 2000 (Stade de France, Paris. Ireland v France)
Widely seen as the match which declared O'Driscoll's genius. He had established himself as a near-automatic choice for Ireland the previous year and had justified his presence with three tries in 10 Tests. However, he doubled that haul with a magical hat trick, helping Ireland to a 27-25 win, their first victory over France in 17 years, and launching what was to become the most successful period in Irish rugby history.
2 June 30, 2001 (The Gabba, Brisbane. Australia v Lions)
In a clash of rugby superpowers - Australia were reigning world champions, but the Lions were favourites - O'Driscoll emerged as a superstar on the strength of the brilliant second-half try he scored as he helped the tourists to a 29-13 victory. Collecting the ball near the Wallabies' 10-metre line, O'Driscoll scorched past three players then bamboozled Australia full-back Chris Latham as he cut inside to score between the posts. "Waltzing O'Driscoll" sang the jubilant Lions supporters long into the night.
3 March 12, 2005. (Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Ireland v France)
Neither side were at their best that year - Wales won an unexpected grand slam - but O'Driscoll considers the try he scored against France to be the best of his career. It came close to the end of the game, when Frederic Michalak had just come on as a replacement from Yann Delaigue at fly-half. From behind a lineout, O'Driscoll caught Michalak cold with a sizzling break then planted full-back Julien Laharrague with a devastating sidestep on his way to the line. Simple, but utterly deadly.
4 February 28, 2009 (Croke Park, Dublin. Ireland v England)
Ireland had not won a grand slam since 1948 and a resurgent England side were certainly not going to make it any easier to end that streak. The English targeted O'Driscoll as Ireland's danger man, and the centre took a ferocious battering at their hands. However, he refused to buckle and made a decisive contribution 15 minutes into the second half when, after many Irish forwards had failed to find a way through, he muscled over from short range for the try that helped Ireland to a 14-13 win. Three weeks later he delivered another try against Wales to help secure their grand slam.
5 May 2, 2009. (Croke Park, Dublin. Leinster v Munster)
Leinster's failure to make a breakthrough in Europe had led one former Ireland internationalist to brand them "Ladyboys". They responded brilliantly. Against a Munster side whose European pedigree had been established with two Heineken Cup wins they played a game of power, purpose and spine-tingling intent, as illustrated when O'Driscoll intercepted a pass from Ronan O'Gara and raced 80 metres for a try. Leinster's 25-6 win made them top dogs in Ireland, a status reinforced when they defeated Leicester 19-16 in the Heineken Cup final at Murrayfield three weeks later.