THE TULLOW TANK is beginning to hum again.
Well, it’s not quite a humming noise, points out Tadhg Furlong, it’s a surprisingly high-pitched piercing sound that acts as a soundtrack to the very biggest games Sean O’Brien is involved in.
Coaches have remarked that they can tell he feeling at the top of his game of enjoying a contest because the sound can be heard clearly coming across referee’s mics and television feeds.
“Yeah, that’s definitely a factor. I’d say as you feel you’re getting back to yourself, you’re more vocal,” O’Brien conceded at Carton House yesterday.
Listen anything approaching closely and you will hear O’Brien’s calls broadcast on Saturday, an occasion which holds extra weight for the Leinster back row as it will mark his return to international rugby 50 weeks after his last cap.
Having played a part in helping Ireland beat Argentina last year, the Carlow man carried his brilliant Lions form through to European clashes with Exeter Chiefs, but the rest of his season consisted of just 67 minutes across two Pro14 games as he was scuppered by hip and shoulder injuries.
“I’m not surprised,” said Joe Schmidt when posed with O’Brien’s latest return from injury.
He’s a stubborn man and once he’s made his mind up about getting back to where he needs to be, he commits fully to things and all I can say is we’re delighted to get him back on board.
“What Tadhg said about Seanie is true, he has a contagious confidence. He’s robust, he’s experienced and people see him doing things on the pitch and they go, ‘yeah, I can get into this game on the back of that.’”
Schmidt uses the word stubborn with absolute admiration. It’s a trait easily taken as a positive when it comes to O’Brien thanks to his abrasive, uncompromising carrying style and his aggressive work without the ball. The Carlow man happily embraces the tag off the field too.
“I’m stubborn in terms of: I know what I want to achieve in my career,” says the back row.
“Going through what I’ve done in the last year, I suppose I’ve assessed where I am and where I want to be. Starting from now and in the future. I’ve set myself little goals and I don’t want to take a step back from that.
“I want to keep building nicely. That’s the stubborn part, where I won’t give in to it. I want to get back to being one of the best players.”
Obviously when you’re doing rehab four or five times a day on a long-term injury it’s very frustrating, but I think the great thing we have is the people we have both in the provincial set-up and here is they know your personality.
“If I come in in the morning and I’m not saying much, they know I just want to get in, get my rehab done and get out of there. Or if I come in nice and chirpy, it’s like a normal day.
“Yeah, you have ups and downs during rehab, you have ups and downs because it’s a mental battle and progress might be slow at times or progress might be quick.”
He adds: “You have to get into (rehab), you have to buy into it because you know every session that you do make you better.”
And now that he is fit again, every game back after the lay-off is one more step back towards his peak.
Saturday’s Test will represent just O’Brien’s third start of the season, though he has played impressive cameo roles off the bench in|Galway and Toulouse.
“I think he’s still on that upward tangent,” says Schmidt, “that’s what I’m hoping because he’s a guy who in my experience of coaching him (since 2010 with Leinster and Ireland) that does take a couple of games to get up and running. But he’s up and running.
“So I’d be really hopeful that he’s going to take another step and just watching him train, he’s bustling about the place, he just looks like he’s taking up a bit of space on the pitch and that’s exactly the sort of Sean O’Brien that you want to see.”
And, with any luck, we’ll all hear him too.
Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud