It's Ireland's call-up: nine to join Lions squad
IT'S every rugby parent's dream - to see their little boys grow up to become Lions.
In nine homes around the country sons, brothers and fathers woke up this morning with the ultimate tribute – as members of the 2013 British and Irish Lions squad for the tour of Australia.
Included in Warren Gatland's squad are Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip.
Surprisingly Jonathan Sexton's mum was the most nervous of all parents as she watched the squad being named.
Clare Sexton told the Irish Independent that seeing her son's name appear on the TV screen yesterday was as exciting as watching the 27-year-old debut in a green jersey.
"It's absolutely unbelievable; it's all a bit surreal for us to be honest. He was anticipating it, but you just never know until the last hour," she said.
"This is something he's really wanted and it's the pinnacle of any rugby player's career, so we're just so happy for him.
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"My phone hasn't stopped buzzing with calls or texts since it was announced and we heard it when everyone else did, so we were all huddled around the TV.
"The nerves were dreadful – it was actually nearly as bad as watching him on the pitch. It's fantastic though."
Conor Murray (24) also received his first call up to the Lions.
Less than two years ago, Murray had not broken on to the Irish side, but his father Gerry, who lives in Patrickswell, Co Limerick, said his son has worked incredibly hard since becoming a professional.
"We are absolutely floating. We were totally surprised when the news came but absolutely delighted," Mr Murray said.
"Conor rang me about five minutes after the announcement and is in fantastic form.
"We knew he was in the running but when you see the quality of players who were left out, it is pretty amazing. There are very few chosen for the Lions."
He added: "I missed the World Cup two years ago but I will be going to Australia.
"I wouldn't miss this – whatever it takes, I'll be there."
Bobby Quilty, Paul O'Connell's uncle, told the Irish Independent that the second row would not be upset in the least that he will not lead the team as Lions captain.
"This is his third tour, so it's fantastic.
"Paul will still be very influential on the pitch and I would imagine both himself and Brian O'Driscoll will impart their knowledge on the younger lads in the group,"he said.
Dublin-born prop Cian Healy took to Twitter to tell of his excitement to be travelling.
"Happy out, thanks so much for all of the tweets! Very proud day for me," he wrote.