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Sunday 23 July 2017

Lionised O'Brien led the way for the men outside the Pale

Leinster’s Seán O’Brien, Jack McGrath and Jonathan Sexton at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps at St Mary’s National School in Ranelagh, with Jake Walsh-Keane, Sophia Hickey, Catherine O’Connor and Alex O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Seán O’Brien, Jack McGrath and Jonathan Sexton at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps at St Mary’s National School in Ranelagh, with Jake Walsh-Keane, Sophia Hickey, Catherine O’Connor and Alex O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean O'Brien has never lost sight of where he has come from.

It wouldn't be tolerated in Tullow anyway.

The Carlow club won The Provincial Towns Cup for the first time in their history on Easter Sunday.

"It was brilliant for the club at home, massive, seeing grown men cry at the end of it that have been playing rugby in Tullow the whole of their lives.

"It was something special," he said.

Back at the Blackgates club, the Ireland flanker took up station behind the bar for two hours that evening to serve some of those who have helped him.

"It is normal for me down there," he smiled. "People are so use to seeing me, they don't blink an eye at it.

"I've often done that. It's just the way it is. Everyone gives a hand.

"That was a big part of it when I use to go down there when I was younger.

"It gave me the foundation to stay grounded. You won't get ahead of yourself down there, I can assure you."

The celebrations lasted through the week and was reason enough for one of their coaches, The Tullow Tank, to contemplate what has been a life less travelled as he nurses a hamstring strain with the PRO12 League semi-finals three weeks away.

After all, O'Brien is 'The Poster Boy' for rugby outside 'The Pale,' the man who convinced Leinster, along with Shane Horgan, of the unpolished diamonds out there.

"It paved the way for other club and youths players, like Tadhg there, for instance, in (New) Ross," Horgan said.

"There are a lot of players that have gone through Leinster over the past six or seven years that have been involved in club backgrounds."

Fellow British & Irish Lion Tadhg Furlong, Joey Carbery, Peter Dooley, Adam Byrne and Tom Daly are all making their mark with Jeremy Loughman and Conor O'Brien in The Academy.

"It has definitely opened up different avenues for players to come through," remarked O'Brien.

"Leinster have looked outside the box in the last few years for more raw talent to turn them into something.

"Their attitude down home - I see the young lads - is phenomenal.

"It is just probably lacking a bit of coaching and training twice-a-week when kids up here are training every day of the week up here.

"That is the step that's there. The systems Leinster have in place at that level are a lot better than they were when I was playing there."

LEINSTER PLAYERS FROM THE CLUBS SYSTEM

SENIOR SQUAD: Sean O'Brien (Tullow), Tadhg Furlong (New Ross), Joey Carbery (Athy), Adam Byrne (Naas), Peter Dooley (Birr), Tom Daly (Carlow).

LEINSTER ACADEMY: Jeremy Loughman (Athy), Conor O'Brien (Mullingar).

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