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O'Driscoll 'grabs' Heaslip

Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll's new talent management company, IKON, has nabbed Jamie Heaslip from a rival firm as the battle between sports agents for a share of the dwindling Irish market hots up.

However, Heaslip -- reputedly the highest-paid player on the IRFU's books -- has retained Platinum One to negotiate his next playing contract, currently thought to be in the region of €400,000 in two years' time.

The company would not comment on the status of any individual player, but sources have confirmed that Heaslip is the only player on their star-studded roster who has decided to transfer his off-field promotions to IKON.

Heaslip has always been vocal to friends about Platinum One's negotiating abilities, which have apparently earned him a playing contract worth more than even O'Driscoll's, but now he has decided to link his off-field promotion with his Leinster team-mate. Colleagues Cian Healy and Eoin O'Malley are also understood to be teaming up with the new O'Driscoll venture.

The Ireland captain greeted the official arrival of the firm IKON by tweeting: "So @IKONTALENT is up and running! #afterlife."

O'Driscoll runs his own affairs through his own promotions company, ODM & Promotions Ltd, and it is believed that he will merely be a "mentor" in the new company, along with former Ireland soccer international Damien Duff and contract lawyer Damien O'Donohoe.

The Irish Independent also understands that Heaslip has no intention of anyone but Platinum One chairman Fintan Drury going into bat with the Union for his next contract, which will start in July 2014.

Drury is a veteran of the sports agency business in Ireland and, aside from Heaslip, Jonny Sexton, Luke Fitzgerald, Sean O'Brien and Gordon D'Arcy, his company today boasts a stable of more than 80 professional footballers in the UK, 75pc of whom are European.

"Players -- professional athletes -- come and go from agency to agency, so it's part and parcel of the industry," said Drury. "I'm 23 years doing this and it's always been the way. However, in the main, when players are well managed they are better advised to stay with the agency that has helped them to achieve success or at least to harness it in terms of their playing contracts and commercial opportunities.

"Leaving to join something new may appeal to younger, less established players, but I would expect a different reaction from those whose careers have matured or are maturing.

"In rugby there is as much pride in having represented Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie from beginning to end of their career as there is in football continuing to advise Packie Bonner more than 20 years after negotiating his last contract with Celtic.

"Those are the kind of relationships that are the most satisfying. They reflect on the character of the athlete as much as on the performance of the agent."

Irish Independent