By Kieran Murphy
IT was back to his roots on Sunday for Sean O’Brien. Less than 24 hours after producing a massive performance in Ireland’s 13-9 win over the old enemy, Tullow’s greatest sporting export was in Black Gates helping to prepare the club’s first XV for their Provincial Towns Cup quarter-final clash with North Kildare.
With the home team routing the opposition (50-0), it completed a perfect weekend for the Irish backrow star.
Never refusing requests to stand in for photographs with young admirers, he reflected on a great weekend for Irish rugby which saw the team produce a performance which helped ease the disappointment of defeats to Scotland and Wales.
“Yesterday (Saturday) was good. The boys put in a performance which we can be proud of. It was tough game. The English are a very hard side to beat so we did well,” said O’Brien.
There were setbacks. Conor Murray was ruled out through injury earlier in the week while Peter O’Mahony replaced Jamie Heaslip who picked up an injury during the warm-up. Ireland were not going to be denied.
Murray’s replacement was accomplished at scrum-half while O’Mahony took the player-of-the-match award. O’Brien was not surprised by the performances of the two.
“Kieran (Marmion) is a quiet and unassuming fellow but he is an incredible and hardy chap. I thought his delivery and service was brilliant all through.
“Peter is not captain of Munster without a reason. He is an incredible player and I was delighted to see him get the chance. He has been chomping at the bit to get in, as have other back-rowers, but to come in and do that is special.”
The Tullow man said that losing to Wales hurt the team deeply so they were determined to get something out of their season.
“It is easy to get motivated the following week when you come back off a loss. Especially when it is against England. We had a good chat at the start of the week and said that whatever about the end result, we wanted a performance that we could be proud of.
“Our families and our fans as well have been brilliant this year and we didn’t want to let them down. It was also very pleasing to sit in the dressing room at the end of the game, to be happy and to be happy for each other.”
His performances see him in contention for a second Lions tour selection. O’Brien says it is too early to think of a possible trip to New Zealand.
“There is a lot of European rugby to be played still and the team will be picked on the back of some of those performances. Obviously, I would love to go again and represent the Lions but I will take it week to week.”
Meanwhile, O’Brien will be hoping to help Tullow to a first Provincial Towns Cup success. He liked what he saw atin Black Gates on Sunday.
“The lads did well. It was a tough first half but they got moving, took the game to the opposition and did well in the end. It is nice to get into a Towns Cup semi-final and we will have to wait and see who we get now.”