Irish Lions return to provinces on August 6th

“Winning a Lions series isn’t going to affect me or the type of player that I am” – Seán O’Brien


The early morning door-stepping shift never fails to disappoint. Irish Lions come through Dublin airport departures to their favourite sight. Lights and cameras rolling. Snappers and hacks swarming.

Jamie Heaslip. No comment. Brian O’Driscoll. No comment. Simon Zebo was off to get his car from cold storage in Carton House and drive on to Cork. So, no comment. Rob Kearney ghosted between us all.

Seán O’Brien stalled for a natter. So did the always accommodating Jonathan Sexton.

There’s always February 8th, 2014 to look forward to. Ireland versus the Lions . . . er, Wales will be in Dublin that afternoon.

Any work to be done on the few acres, Seán?

“I’ll go home now and relax for a few days and get out with a few mates from home and that’ll be it. The hay is down actually, so . . .

“It was one of those days I’ll never forget,” said O’Brien of last Saturday’s coruscating dismissal of the Wallabies in the third Test.

“I was feeling a bit sick, I think, with the whole atmosphere and soaking everything in. It was an unbelievable experience, the whole tour. We came out on top and it will be etched forever in my memory.”

It’s been suggested he is coming back a better player.

“I don’t think so, I just try and improve some things myself that I think need improving on but, no, winning a Lions series isn’t going to affect me or the type of player I am.”

The Lions contingent can holiday until August 6th, when seven weeks pre-season starts.

It’s safe enough to assume Kearney, in particular, will be seen before then to ensure Springbok fullback Zane Kirchner doesn’t get any Leigh Halfpenny-type ideas on arrival in Dublin.

Leinster should also reap the benefit of any axe-grinding O’Driscoll and Heaslip may wish to perform.

There is also a new head coach in Matt O’Connor for Leinster to get used to.

Of course, it’s all change for Sexton, who gets married next week, before moving to Paris a week later for a new life as Racing Métro 92 outhalf.

“I can’t wait to get started, to prove myself in a new environment over there with a new language that I haven’t practised that much over the last few weeks so it’s a good challenge on many levels and one I’m looking forward to,” he said.

The Gatland game, already dubbed Ireland versus the Lions, is seven months down the tracks.

“Yeah, we had a bit of a laugh about that,” said Sexton. “Ireland against the Lions . . . in the Six Nations. It will be a big game for a lot of the Irish lads that got left out for the Welsh lads.”

Understatement of the season so far. Next season that is. Last season is finally cooked.