Those who were there at first will be last to leave tonight.
The captain and the King have shared in three Heineken Cups, three PRO12 Leagues in 2001, 2008 and 2013 and one Amlin Challenge Cup. The hour is upon us. “We’ve had enough of the send-offs at this stage - some more than others,” said Leo Cullen, tongue firmly planted in cheek.
The Leinster captain drew the short straw of retiring in the same year as Brian O’Driscoll. He has never had to answer so many questions about the legendary figure.
Cullen walked into a Leinster pre-match press conference for the last time yesterday, one day after clearing out his locker at Leinster for the last time.
“It is a strange feeling,” he said. “Brian changes two spots up from me, so he was doing the same. You know when your time is done and there are better models coming through now.”
Cullen’s final season role has been to return often to the place he started for Leinster - the bench. He had to learn the ropes coming off it four times in his debut season 1998-1999.
He will conclude his career of 15 seasons with a ninth appearance off the bench to go with his nine starts out of his overall total of what will be 219 caps for his province by close of business. “This year, my mindset has just been to enjoy the games as much as I possibly can and not really place that much pressure on game time or how many games I’m playing in. For the most part, I have enjoyed the games,” he said.
In the hype and hysteria of O’Driscoll’s and Cullen’s exit, there are those in limbo. Mike McCarthy was signed last season on a three-year contract to succeed Cullen.
The second row was making his way back from a leg injury at a time when Leinster announced the star signing of Wallaby Kane Douglas, putting McCarthy in a three-into-two won’t go’ equation with Devin Toner.
“Mike, he’s a player we looked at for a long time,” he said. “He hits very hard, carries hard. He’s fully committed”.
The next chapter in Cullen’s life will be that of forwards coach, presumably with the end-goal ambition of taking over as head coach one day.
“I’ve always been a little detached in these weeks. We’ve so many leaders across the board and guys who’ve been there and done it in the past. It’s just gauging the mood a lot of the time”.
He won’t have any problem putting distance between himself and the players.