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'His last memory now with Leinster will be lifting the trophy'

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton handed the Pro14 trophy to Sean O’Brien in Glasgow.

Murray Kinsella reports from Celtic Park

LEINSTER HAVE A tradition of having departing players lift their trophies and it was Sean O’Brien – who hadn’t played – who lofted the Pro14 trophy into the Glasgow air after the province had earned their sixth title. 

O’Brien missed out on bidding farewell to Leinster fans by playing due to a hip injury, meaning his last appearance in the blue jersey was in the Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens two weeks ago.

Sean O'Brien celebrates with teammates after winning the Guinness PRO14 Final O'Brien lifts the Guinness Pro14 trophy at Celtic Park. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Captain Johnny Sexton happily handed the trophy over to the suited O’Brien at Celtic Park and the rest of the Leinster squad gleefully drenched him in bubbly as the celebrations kicked off.

O’Brien will hope to recover from his injury swiftly and be fully fit to launch himself into Ireland’s World Cup pre-season, but tonight will be about toasting his time with Leinster.

The 32-year-old will join Premiership side London Irish after the World Cup, linking up with director of rugby Declan Kidney, having given so much of himself to his native Leinster.

The Tullow man, who has 56 Ireland caps, made his Leinster debut back in 2008 and helped them to many brilliant days, meaning Sexton felt it was only right that O’Brien lift the trophy at Celtic Park.

“We knew early enough that Seany was struggling a little bit,” said Sexton after Leinster’s 18-15 victory over the Glasgow Warriors. 

“And we wanted to make sure his last contribution wasn’t the Saracens game. His last memory now will be lifting the trophy, there’s not too many people who have lifted the trophy by themselves in Leinster.

“It’s guys like Leo and Isa [Nacewa], they’re the only two. The rest of the time we always do it in twos.

“It was fitting for him, we’re really going to miss him. I’m going to miss him.

Sean O'Brien and Luke McGrath celebrate with the trophy O'Brien gets drenched by his team-mates. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“To be fair, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. As a forward, I’d say he’s the best… No offence to Leo!

“Other forwards in the world didn’t have his drive. As a leader and a player, we’re going to miss him.”

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster also paid tribute to the departing O’Brien, saying he was among the best forwards he has ever worked with.

“He has to be up there in terms of what he’s delivered in the game,” said Lancaster.

“I feel that I never really got the chance to coach him. He was at his best on the Lions and obviously in my time at Leinster, he’s been injured a lot of the time. Jamie Heaslip was similar, where you would have loved to have coached him more.

“Throughout the time I’ve spent with Sean over the last few years, I’ve been so impressed with his personality, his integrity, his leadership, his desire to improve.

“He raises the standards of everyone around him and people talk about what his point of difference is – his point of difference is how he makes other people in the squad feel.

“It’s a testament to his influence that he was given the trophy to lift because I don’t think anyone can doubt his influence on Leinster in the last 10 or 15 years.”

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Murray Kinsella

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