JAMIE HEASLIP REVEALED that Eoin O’Malley, who was forced to retire from rugby this season at the age of 25, handed out the jerseys to his former Leinster teammates last night.
The focus, ahead of the Pro12 final, was on Brian O’Driscoll’s final game but O’Malley, a talented outside centre in his own right, called an end to his career in August after ongoing knee issues. Leinster won the league title by defeating Glasgow Warriors 34-12 at the RDS.
Heaslip said, “We had Eoin O’Malley in before the game to hand out all the jerseys and I think that brought home to all the lads what playing for Leinster is all about. We went out there and showed it today.”
“It’s quite a finite thing,” he added. “Your career could be over in the blink of an eye. From the IRUPA [players' union] stats, the average career length for a player in Ireland is six years [Note: it is seven]. I’m already on borrowed time I suppose but we all know guys who’ve had to finish because of a sudden injury.
To see someone speak emotionally about what it meant for him to play for the club really gave a lot of guys focus.”
O’Driscoll defied the odds [and injuries] that shorten and end a player’s career but the calf strain that followed him into the Grand Final could not be shook. Heaslip said the centre’s departure spurred his teammates on, despite their slow start to the match.
“It was great for us to be able to send off a guy who has given so much to Leinster rugby and to Irish rugby with a trophy,” he said. “He has been unbelievable to play alongside.”
The Leinster captain added, “We knew it would not be easy and, to be fair to Glasgow, I don’t think the score reflected the way the two sides played, but we are over the moon to finish like that.”