Winning farewell for Brian O’Driscoll – Ireland’s greatest ever sports star

Final appearance: Brian O'Driscoll

Final appearance: Brian O’DriscollBrian

Afterwards O’Driscoll was deservedly hailed by his team-mates after retiring from his playing career with another RaboDirect PRO12 title under his belt at the end of his 16th season as a professional rugby player.

But it was not an ideal ending to such an illustrious career after the veteran Irish international was forced to leave the field prematurely due to injury after only nine minutes, as he watched his side beat Glasgow Warriors 34-12 in Dublin. It was also the last game for former team captain Leo Cullen who also retires from the game.

Glasgow made it difficult

Although Brian O’Driscoll had little opportunity to make an impact in his final club game, Leinster’s scorers were Zane Kirchner (2), Shane Jennings and Gordon D’Arcy, as Jimmy Gopperth kicked 14 points to secure the trophy. Nevertheless Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has acknowledged that his side had been motivated by the chance to give O’Driscoll an appropriate send-off in fitting fashion, which they did.

“Brian O’Driscoll has been immense. They don’t make them like that any more and we are just privileged to have him in the environment,” he said. “It’s not all about one guy but there’s no doubt everyone here wanted to make sure he, Leo and the other guys who are leaving us went out in the right way. “We have worked really hard all year. They deserve it because they worked really hard throughout the season.

“It was a tough battle. We knew that it would be and we needed to put our best performance to beat Glasgow and it is no disgrace to lose to our team.”

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip also added: “It was great for us to be able to send off a guy who has given so much to Leinster rugby and to Irish rugby with a trophy.

Paying tribute to the departing O’Driscoll Heaslip also added: “He has been unbelievable to play alongside.”

But the visitors were in no mood to join the Brian O’Driscoll farewell party according to Heaslip:

“We knew it would not be easy and, to be fair to Glasgow, I don’t think the score reflected the way the two sides played, but we are over the moon to finish like that.”

O’Driscoll leaves a huge void for Leinster and Ireland

While a number of names are sure to emerge in the future as the new ‘Brian O’Driscoll’ the truth is Irish rugby will probably never see the likes of him again either on or off the field. The qualities he brought to the game will be quite simply irreplaceable. There was never any holding back.

He was never the biggest, but always the bravest and he played every game as if it was his last. These are the values he will be best remembered by all rugby fans and especially non-Irish ones. And it was his courage, bravery and heroism that made him a born leader

Three European crowns for Leinster

Three European crowns with Leinster are his trophy legacies. ‘In BOD we trust,’ the blue banners emblazoned. Blue waves broke on Europe’s shores. Young boys’ dreams really do come true.

Irish rugby’s two greatest days were in Paris against the French last March, and in the Millennium Stadium against the Welsh in 2009. He was Ireland’s captain that day in Cardiff and how Brian led Ireland to a Grand Slam victory for the first time in 61 years to end such a long time of heartbreak and pain.

One had to be present that evening in Cardiff that to realise the enormity of the occasion as the thin green line looked about to fall apart. But O’Driscoll’s belief was paramount as the team on the brink of history dared not fail. As everyone recalls just as it was in Paris last March the game in the balance until the very end.

But O’Driscoll lifted the Grand Slam with President Mary McAleese by his side. His smile was as wide as an estuary. Never was a leader more needed.

And again earlier this year, Brian showed his bravery on the barricades of Paris.

His aching body just kept going on instinct. Ireland deservedly beat the French to win the Six Nations in Paris of all places, where Ireland only ever usually tasted the bitter grit of defeat.

But on March 15 in St Denis, Ireland held their heads up high. In the dark recession, never did a leader deliver more for his country and so now the whole world knows the name of Brian O’Driscoll.

Ni Beidh a Leithead Ann Aris!

BOD’s Factfile

Regarded as the one of the best centres of all time, Brian O’Driscoll captained Ireland from 2004 up until the 2013 Six Nations and captained Leinster Rugby for three seasons from 2005/6 – 2007/8. He also captained the British and Irish Lions for their 2005 tour of New Zealand. Brian O’Driscoll was also chosen as Player of the Tournament in the 2006, 2007 and 2009 RBS Six Nations Championships.

Brian O’Driscoll’s glittering career includes 133 Test caps, 125 for Ireland (83 as captain), and 8 for the British and Irish Lions. During his amazing playing career Brian has scored 45 tries for Ireland and 1 try for the Lions in 2001, making him the highest try scorer of all time in Irish Rugby.

Brian O’Driscoll is also the 8th-highest try scorer in rugby union history, and the highest scoring centre of all time. He also holds the Six Nations record for most tries scored with 25. He has scored the most Heineken Cup tries (30) for an Irishman.