Former British and Irish Lions flanker retires from rugby

Irish and London international Sean O’Brien has announced he will retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 Premiership season after a 14-year career.

During his professional career, the back rower played mainly for his home province of Leinster where he helped the team win four PRO12/PRO14 Championship titles, four Heineken/Champions Cups as well as an Amlin Challenge Cup in 11 seasons.

The Leinsterman won his first international cap for Ireland in 2009 and played a further 55 games in green where he earned a reputation as one of the fiercest strikers in the world.

former tourist

In 2011, O’Brien won the European Player of the Year award before becoming a British and Irish Lions tourist in 2013 when the team traveled to Australia.

O’Brien was also part of the team four years later when Warren Gatland’s team toured New Zealand.

In 2019 he left Leinster and crossed the Irish Sea to join London Irish in the Premiership where he became a fan favorite for obvious reasons.

On his choice to step away from professional rugby, O’Brien said: “After extensive deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from professional rugby at the end of the season.

“I’ve had an incredible career and I’m grateful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, the London Irish and the British & Irish Lions.

“At 20 I fulfilled my childhood dream of donning the Leinster shirt, and when I made my debut against the Cardiff Blues in 2008 I had no idea what would follow over the next 14 years.

“A special mention has to go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy.

“I feel lucky to have had so many wonderful highlights in my career.

“Internationally, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland.

“I gave everything I could give, and I will always look back with great pride every time I put on the Irish shirt to represent my country, my county, my friends and my family.

“I feel very lucky to have had the career I have had, but none of this would have been possible without the support of so many people.

“First of all I would like to thank my mum and dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then to Tullow RFC when I was 8.

“They took me into all the sports in my area, which gave me exposure to all types of sports.

“They were perfect role models who taught me not to be afraid of hard work which definitely helped me progress in my career and I can’t thank them enough.

“I have been fortunate to play alongside great players and under brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I want to thank each and every one of them.

“I would also like to thank the behind-the-scenes staff at each of these clubs, they have all shown me fantastic support during my time with them.

“I would like to especially thank some people who believed in me at the start of my career and who are unfortunately no longer with us.

“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always told me what was needed and gave me instructions when needed.

“Outside of rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I could always count on and rely on throughout my career.

“Thank you to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey.

“Finally, the most important thank you goes to my family.

“I can’t thank my mum, dad and brothers (Stephen and William), sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years.

“It has meant everything to me and having 6 nephews watching means the world to me.

“There’s still a lot of rugby to be played this season before it’s time to hang up the boots, and I’m fully focused on giving it my all in a London Irish shirt until then.

“I will enjoy every minute I have on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.

“I’m excited about the future and I feel I still have a lot to offer the game in any capacity.

“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will be making an announcement about the next step in my career very soon.”

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Charles P. Patton