Sunday 22 October 2017

Leinster must keep focus to deliver fitting final farewell – Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor will be keen for his first season in charge of Leinster to end with some silverware
Matt O'Connor will be keen for his first season in charge of Leinster to end with some silverware
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Matt O'Connor expects his players to deliver a fitting farewell to Brian O'Driscoll and Leo Cullen, who call time on their illustrious careers in tonight's Pro12 final.

The Leinster pair will retire after the RDS clash and, while he does not plan on referencing their departures in his build-up, the Australian coach believes their team-mates will use it as motivation themselves.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt moved O'Driscoll to tears in the dressing-room before his last international game, the Six Nations decider in Paris, but O'Connor intends to leave it unsaid.

"It doesn't need to be said, to be honest. Everyone knows it's been one of the most talked about farewells of all time," he said. "It's Brian's last game for Leinster, that in itself will drive the emotion of the group to deliver for both Brian and Leo, because that's what they've earned over a period of time.

"Now, what you can't do is let it interfere with what we need to deliver on to get a result."

O'Connor has recalled fit-again Mike McCarthy to his starting line-up, along with Mike Ross, while Zane Kirchner comes in for the injured Dave Kearney.

Cullen starts on the bench, where there is no room for Jordi Murphy, with Sean O'Brien kept in reserve.

The captain and O'Driscoll cleared out their lockers at UCD on Thursday, but Cullen says today's game is no time for sentimentality.

"I think we've had enough of those send-offs at this stage," he said with a smile. "It is strange more than anything else.

"It's a very, very strange feeling. I cleared out my locker there in UCD. Brian changes two spots up from me, so he was doing the same.

"Listen, your time is done and there are better models coming through now.

"The B&I Cup guys put in a pretty outstanding performance last week. these guys, hopefully, will be able to keep Leinster successful in the future."

Irish Independent

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