“I Used To Clean Boots, Tidy The Gym, The Shed” – Seán O’Brien On His Early Days Grafting At Leinster
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Having represented Ireland, the Lions and Leinster on countless occasions, Seán O’Brien will, without doubt, go down in history as one of the great players.
The openside flanker was almost unstoppable at times at the peak of his career and was named European Player of the Year back in 2012.
But the ‘Tullow Tank’ had to take the hard route into rugby, having not come from the traditional private school path like many players in Leinster and was very much an ‘outsider’ so to speak when he came in.
O’Brien joined Jamie Heaslip and myself on the latest episode of the Up and Under Podcast following the launch of his new book ‘Fuel’ and he said coming through the way he did definitely left a massive chip on his shoulder.
“It definitely gave me a bit of a chip on my shoulder, 100%. Especially in the earlier days,” O’Brien said of coming through the Leinster ranks via the club scene.
“I think even people at home doubted me. I really had a point to prove.
“It is a different way of coming through and it is more difficult no doubt.”
And O’Brien was a serious grafter in his early days in the academy, with not much money available at home to support him.
The 33-year-old said he used to try and pick up as many jobs as he could coming through so he could earn a few extra quid to get by, including clean the senior players’ boots and tidying up the gym and changing rooms.
“When I first went up, financially we wouldn’t have been in a great place at home,” O’Brien added.
Between the academy wage we were getting at the time, which I think was €320 a month, and the scholarship you get off of UCD which was similar I think – I was going through Dave McHugh at the time when I first went there and saying ‘Dave, any work around the place, it doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll cut grass, I’ll trim hedges, I’ll wash floors, I’ll do whatever.’
“So get got me a few gigs with the senior squad. Filling their ice-baths, I used to clean boots, then tidy the gym, the shed in Belvedere. It used to keep me ticking over.
“I used to be able to get a chicken roll or two out of the extra change I had!”