Belfast Telegraph

Sean O'Brien hungry to return after roaring on Ireland's Grand Slam

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Sean O'Brien watched as the Aviva rose to acclaim his recently retired team-mate Jamie Heaslip and the steely professional within reasoned, "It could be worse, that could be me".

Injuries have wrecked his season and denied him a second Six Nations title and a first Grand Slam. They threaten his ability to contribute to a Leinster run-in rich in potential for silverware and yet he remains full of belief that his career has a long way to run.

With every injury, the rumour mill gathers more volume as it ushers in the end. O'Brien's contemporaries are slowly stepping away, injury is claiming them one by one. Heaslip, Luke Fitzgerald, Felix Jones, Kevin McLaughlin and Eoin O'Malley all went before their time, but he has no intention of giving up just yet.

He has plenty of unfinished business once he is clear of the shoulder injury that kept him out of the final two Six Nations games and the Champions Cup quarter-final win over Saracens.

He hopes to return next weekend when Leinster take on Zebre, thus proving his fitness for the semi-final meeting with Scarlets.

Looking down on Heaslip from the stands, he felt relieved that he has the opportunity to continue.

"The only thing I said to myself was, 'It could always be worse', he said. "At least I'm still getting back from these things and I don't have something that is career-ending.

"So, they're all fixable things so far. We're in a lucky place to be in the situation we're in, some of us.

"That's why, when we have opportunities to win trophies and be a part of something special, you don't want to miss out."

Missing out is something he's had to do, unfortunately.

He has two European Cups, the 2015 Six Nations, a Challenge Cup and a couple of PRO14s, but injury has denied him plenty.

"It's tough," he said. "You miss those big days you've worked hard for and you want to be involved in.

"When you miss the likes of a Grand Slam year like this year, it does hurt a little bit.

"But I always try to look at the positives. Next year is a World Cup year and there's a Six Nations to play for, so there's two massive opportunities to go and win two more trophies."

He watched the Grand Slam game from a pub in Tullow.

"I watched it in a local pub beside my brother-in-law's house with my best friend and about 10 others," he recalled.

"I was shouting and roaring at the telly like anyone else and delighted at the end of it all."

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