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Johnny Sexton: “He’s One Hell Of A Player, He’s One Hell Of A Character”

Sean O'Brien

Sean McMahon reporting from St James Park, Newcastle. 

There are no shortage of motivating factors for Leinster in their quest to secure a fifth European Cup crown when they take on Saracens on Saturday evening.

When this writer asked James Ryan during the week whether revenge would be on the mind because of Ireland’s loss to England during the Six Nations, the 22-year-old refuted that claim and insisted rather on “internal motivations” as he mentioned Sean O’Brien’s time with the province coming to an end.

O’Brien’s departure to London Irish at the end of the season will close the book on a decorated career with his boyhood club.

In what will be his final European appearance for Leinster, the Tullow native could make history by helping his side clinch a fifth European title, a feat which has not yet been achieved.

Of course, O’Brien has played a pivotal role in Leinster’s European success. He was named among the replacements in the 2009 final against Leicester Tigers before starting both games in 2011 and 2012 where Leinster secured a historic back-to-back.

Sean O'Brien

Unfortunately, last year in 2018, O’Brien was ruled out through injury but he’s now fully fit after looking back to his best in the semi-final win over Toulouse.

“I think it’s in the back of our minds, definitely, it’s not something we’ve spoken about,” Johnny Sexton said about O’Brien’s impending departure.

“I think we’ve learned some lessons in the past, where If I go back to when we had Nathan Hines, Girvan Dempsey and Malcolm O’Kelly leaving before finals, for example, and we made it all about them and wanting to send them off [on a high].

“It was highly emotional and that can just bear down on you and it’s added pressure, so we haven’t spoken about it at all.

“But when you know it could be your last time playing with Sean O’Brien, you want to make the most of it because he’s one hell of a player, he’s one hell of a character and we want to send him off on a high but it’s not going to matter for anything tomorrow that it’s his last game, Sarries aren’t going to try any less.

“It’s about who plays best on the day and we’ll do our talking about Sean when the season is finished.”

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email [email protected] or on Twitter