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Dublin: 15 °C Saturday 17 August, 2019
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No comment from O'Driscoll or Heaslip as Irish Lions welcomed home

Sean O’Brien and Jonny Sexton carried out their final press duties on a long 2012/13 season.

Brian O'Driscoll signs autographs for fans at Dublin Airport.
Brian O'Driscoll signs autographs for fans at Dublin Airport.
Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

30 MINUTES AFTER the Irish Lions had landed in Dublin Airport and a tall, dark-haired man wearing shades emerged in a red Lions jersey. The whooping and hollering commenced as the TV cameras were switched into life.

False alarm folks. Just a regular Lions fan.

The long-haul trip from Australia was almost at an end for six of the Ireland players – Brian O’Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo, Sean O’Brien and Jonny Sexton – that had taken part in the successful Lions Test Series against Australia. Their flight touched down at 10:10am but the players emerged closer to 11am.

The arrival of former Ireland and Lions [1993 Tour] lock, Mick Galwey was a portent of things to come. The Munster legend shook hands and signed a couple of autographs before exiting stage left for the new generation of rugby heroes.

First to emerge was O’Driscoll, a man who finally ticked the box marked ‘Lions series winner’ on his fourth and final tour of duty. The country’s leading tryscorer took his axing from the Third Test squad with a style and grace synonymous with his playing career. He was mobbed by reporters but took time out for young supporters before waving away interview requests.

Lions captain Sam Warburton signs a young supporter’s jersey at London Heathrow. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Next to run – or push his trolley through – the gauntlet was Heaslip, another player who was dropped for the series decider. The gathering for the Ireland captain was sparser but the pattern continued. “Not today lads,” said Heaslip, eyes focused on the Terminal 2 exit doors.

Apparently the players were only told upon walking through the arrivals door that they were needed to fulfill one, final spot of media duty. The reluctance of a few players was understandable after a lengthy tour and an epic journey home. Tommy Bowe and Rory Best faced the same pressgang and supporters when they arrived into George Best Airport, Belfast, shortly after 11am.

The two players gently goaded into chatting to the media horde were, unsurprisingly, the Leinster and Ireland players that started the Third Test, which the Lions won 41-16.

Jonny Sexton, who is due to get married on Friday, was eager to enjoy a final few weeks in Ireland before flying to Paris with his new wife to begin his career with Racing Metro. Sean O’Brien knew the exact day his pre-season with Leinster would begin. 6 August is the day he will dive back into the rigors of a new season. For the next few weeks, the flanker is looking forward to getting back to his farm in Carlow and catching up with his friends ‘for a few drinks’.

Thirsty work, being a Lion.

*Interviews with Sean O’Brien and Jonny Sexton will feature on the site later today.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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