IRFU reject Fintan Drury’s take on Seán O’Brien negotiations

Platinum agent says parties had discussions but nothing which could be considered as negotiations

The IRFU strongly reject a suggestion attributed to Seán O'Brien's agent, Fintan Drury, that they have not yet begun negotiations regarding a new contract for the 26-year-old Leinster, Irish and Lions flanker, whose current deal expires at the end of this season.

What’s more, they cite specific dates where discussions have taken place going back to last June and claim they are waiting on Drury to agree a date for a third meeting, with Drury yesterday conceding those meetings did indeed take place but questioning whether they amounted to negotiations.

The Union and Drury have been through strained negotiations before with regard to Johnny Sexton prior to his departure to Racing Metro at the end of last season, with the player himself very critical of the IRFU. Drury's company, Platinum One, represents both players, along with many others on Leinster's books.

Although Drury was not quoted directly in an interview with a Sunday newspaper four days ago, the article stated: “Despite reports that his (O’Brien’s) contract negotiations have already begun, Drury rejects this. He is not expecting an offer from the Union until after the November tests.”

This was at odds with information emanating from the IRFU and yesterday the Union maintained that they have indeed begun negotiations with O’Brien regarding a new contract.

"The IRFU would not normally get into public comment on the details of individual contract negotiations," said a spokesperson. "However, on this occasion as there was a blatant misrepresentation of the facts by Mr Drury, in the Sunday Times, in his assertion that negotiations have not commenced in relation to Seán O'Brien, it is felt that it is important to put the record straight.

'First met'
"I can confirm that representatives of the IRFU and Leinster first met with Fintan Drury on 5th June and again on 1st October to specifically discuss Seán O'Brien's contract. If you wish to verify these facts you can contact Mick Dawson.

“In the meeting of 1st October all parties agreed to a further meeting in late October,” added the spokesperson. “The IRFU e-mailed Mr Drury on the 1st October to confirm this and to advise him that we would contact him mid-October to arrange this agreed follow-up meeting. To-date no response or acknowledgement has been received from Mr Drury in relation to that 1st October e-mail.”

In response to this, Drury told The Irish Times: "Without getting into a semantic argument. I suppose the best way of dealing with the difference in emphasis is as follows: Yes, there were two meetings on the dates in question. At the first meeting I put forward a proposal which was not acceptable (to the IRFU) and the second meeting on 1st of October, I re-stated that proposal and it was a very cordial but very brief meeting. So by my judgement negotiations have not started. There has been no negotiations.

"We agreed that we would touch base again at the end of October. Those are the facts. I'm amazed that they would want to get into that. They've put me in a position where I have no choice but to say what I've just said. They may say that's just a semantic argument, but discussions could not be, by any means, considered negotiations."

Constitutes negotiations
Whatever about interpreting what constitutes negotiations as opposed to discussions, Drury admits he didn't really expect his initial "proposal" to be accepted by the Union. Nor would he clarify whether the Union came back with a counter offer, as he "did not want to discuss this through the media".

“I have a sense of where they are prepared to go,” Drury added, but repeated his assertion that if a leading French club wants Seán O’Brien the IRFU won’t be able to compete with them financially.

“This particular player (O’Brien) will have a number of options going forward. Those are the facts. Not every player is going to have other options, other than staying in Ireland. This player will have other options. That’s just the reality, because of who he is and his qualities. The IRFU understands that and the IRFU may very well secure him.

“There’s every prospect that the IRFU will secure him. But if somebody comes in from a good club where the environment is positive and makes him the kind of offer the big clubs in France can make, the IRFU, from a financial perspective, is not going to be able to compete, purely on the finances. Nor should they try to, in my opinion.”

As to the Union awaiting a response from him regarding a third meeting, Drury said: “What we agreed at the meeting in early October was that we would touch base again at the end of October. We will be in contact and find out where we stand at the end of October. There could well be another meeting.”