Wednesday 19 June 2019

'We're really going to miss him' - Johnny Sexton explains decision to give Seán O'Brien the honour of lifting the PRO14 trophy

Leinster celebrate with the cup after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Leinster celebrate with the cup after the Guinness PRO14 Final match between Leinster and Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rúaidhri O'Connor

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton handed the honour of lifting the Guinness PRO14 trophy to departing star Seán O'Brien and afterwards he hailed his team-mate who moves to London Irish at the end of the season.

The province have a tradition of sharing the trophy-lifting duties over the past decade, but this evening at Celtic Park it was the Tullow Tank who was handed the task as he joined his squad-mates in his suit and raised the cup aloft.

O'Brien was ruled out of the game with a hip injury and an update on that issue will be issued tomorrow. And, after his final game came in the Champions Cup final loss to Saracens, Sexton wanted to send him off with a happier memory.

"Yeah, we knew early enough in the week that Seány was struggling a little bit," he said.

"And we wanted to make sure his last contribution wasn't Saracens.

"His last memory now will be lifting the trophy, there's not too many people who have lifted the trophy by themselves in Leinster. It's guys like Leo and Isa (Nacewa), they're the only two. The rest of the time we always do it in twos.

"It was fitting for him, we're really going to miss him. I'm going to miss him.

"To be fair, he's one of the best players I've ever played with. As a forward, I'd say he's the best. No offence to Leo.

"Just, other forwards in the world didn't have his drive, as a leader and a player we're going to miss him.

"Obviously, we drive things from within and make sure the younger players coming through are driving it."

Sexton spoke of the disappointment the squad had experienced in losing their first Champions Cup final in Newcastle and spoke of his pride at the performance to beat the Warriors in their home city.

“Look, I’m very proud of the lads," he said. "The way we bounced back after what was probably the lowest point of all our careers really in terms of losing a European Cup final.”

Meanwhile, Rob Kearney has expressed his hope that he'll still be at his home province next season.

The full-back has yet to agree a new deal to remain at Leinster and has attracted interest from abroad, but asked by TG4 about whether he'll be back in blue after the World Cup, he said: "Yeah, please God".

Having been somewhat lucky not to get a red card for his reckless challenge on Stuart Hogg, Kearney was delighted to come to Glasgow and retain the title.

"It was incredible," he said of the final, which attracted a crowd of 47,198 to the home of Celtic.

"You can see why it’s a place with such history. There was a few spare seats today, but the noise was incredible.

"We weren’t expecting a huge amount of support given the amount of people that came to Newcastle, but there’s still so many people in blue for us today. It’s brilliant.

"We knew they were going to come out, it’s a huge game for them – they’re at home, it’s the final and it’s kind of written in the script for them a little bit.

"So, they really came out of the blocks and that first 10 minutes was really intense, we weathered the storm a little and got a fortuitous enough try to get us back into the game."

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