As seismic moments in Irish sport go, the decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll from the Lions squad ranks up there with Roy Keane being sent home from the World Cup in Saipan.
For Lions coach Warren Gatland he has now replaced Thierry Henry as the object of every Irish person’s derision.
The man himself or BOD as he is more commonly known on Twitter, was typically dignified in his reaction to being dropped. He simply tweeted: “Obviously totally gutted at being left out for deciding Test but all efforts go into preparing the boys to see it through. #seaofred”, before later adding in response to a tweet that it was “hard to take”.
The Irish legend’s better half, actress Amy Huberman tweeted that she was “massively proud” of her husband before thanking people who had been in touch on Twitter for their support.
Stars of other codes seemed to think it was the wrong call to leave the Leinster man out of the crucial third Test.
Broadcaster Hector Ó hEochagáin, the man famous for Chasing the Lions in 2009, said Gatland was irrationally choosing the men he knew best — the Welsh.
“Something just didn’t feel right with this Lions Tour... Selection & Squad & Starting 15 ... The Irish Lions deserved better. Gatland has his favourites ... His buddies ... Simple as that,” he tweeted.
Journalist David Walsh — the man who took down drug cheat Lance Armstrong — stated our response was a tad over the top.
“The reaction to Brian O’Driscoll’s omission from Lions team hysterical and borderline irrational. Attacking Lion of 2001 is long gone. The one person who won’t be hysterical and irrational is O’Driscoll himself. Ultimate team man will know and understand,” he tweeted from the Tour de France.
The normally sedate world of cricket was also exercised by the decision, with England legend Ian ‘Beefy’ Botham stating Warren Gatland had “lost the plot” by not including O’Driscoll in the team.
“What is going on, no Brian O’Driscoll....has the coach lost the plot...4 times lion..! Not even on the bench...! Your job & future !!!
“Not even on the bench? I hope JR doesn’t fall over!! Could look silly!! He should be at least on the bench...Out of respect 4x lion!!,” he tweeted.
Former Australian rugby international Matt Giteau tweeted: “Gee dropping @BrianODriscoll out of the team is a huge call.. For mine, he has been the stand out unsung hero this series.. Defensively huge.”
All Black legend and outhalf Dan Carter also tweeted that he felt Brian O’Driscoll should not only have been in the team but should have been captain.
“There must be some angry Irish out there waking up to see @BrianODriscoll not playing this weekend. #ShouldBeTheCaptain,” he tweeted.
Even a former captain of The Old Enemy Will Carling said his jaw was “still hanging open” at the Lions selection, while Austin Healey questioned whether Gatland had “panicked”.
Former Ireland winger and 2005 Lion, Denis Hickie, said the decision typified the style of rugby Warren Gatland wanted to play.
“It’s a very, very puzzling decision. I think it’s very perplexing. I also think it’s, sadly, indicative of the way the Lions intend to play which is, effectively, like they did last week. with more power, more direct. I was hoping to see a selection that would reflect a more expansive game plan, which very much would have involved someone like Brian O’Driscoll,” he said.
A member of the victorious 1997 Lions team and former Ireland captain Keith Wood described O’Driscoll’s omission as “a huge mistake”.
“I’ve been uncomfortable throughout this tour whenever Warren Gatland has spoken about the captaincy. He tries to de-power it, he consistently says it isn’t about leadership and that isn’t the most important thing. Having been on two Lions tours myself under Martin Johnson, I would have said the leadership of the captain was the most important thing.”
“Brian O’Driscoll has been quiet in the two Tests, but at every stage, he has been the clarion call once Paul O’Connell got injured. I just think Gatland has made a terrible mistake,” he said.
Rugby pundit and broadcaster George Hook said he was not surprised by the decision, stating that Brian O’Driscoll had not been playing well. However, he said the Leinster man was being made a scapegoat by a “bad coach” trying to defend his reputation.
“Brian O’Driscoll is without any shadow of a doubt the greatest rugby player of his generation anywhere in the world. My entire angst this morning is that this wonderful rugby player, this Van Gogh of rugby’s work is now being sold in second-hand shops. That’s the tragedy this morning that when we look at this great man he is being hard done by people who aren’t fit to lace his boots,” he said.
Another former Ireland and Lions captain, Willie John McBride, said it was an “amazing” decision.
“I was absolutely gutted. The first thing that came into my mind was that Deans, the Australian coach, must be laughing all the way. The Australian media and others, Eddie Jones the previous Australian coach, have convinced them to drop O’Driscoll which I find amazing. He was the guy I would have tipped as captain of the tour. He has been a big influence so far. You live and die by the team you pick and we will see what Saturday brings,” he said.
Don't worry Brian this Saturday at 11.00 I'm gonna turn on Sky and watch my recording of the first test all over again. #BOD— Dustin The Turkey (@DustinOfficial) July 3, 2013
Can t be right! Gatland ya mad yoke! Dropping brian o'driscoll. Clearly wants t lose the series— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) July 3, 2013
Gatland must be sittin in his hotel now thinkin,what have I done!the most experienced , the best centre on the planet, and I've dropped him— Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial) July 3, 2013
100/1 BOD and Amy name their next kid Warren. Worth a punt? @DanCarter— Tom Vaughan (@TomVaughan182) July 3, 2013
If Enda Kenny isn't ringing Warren Gatland and threatening to send out John Hayes in a helicopter gunship then he's no leader of mine.— Colm Tobin (@colmtobin) July 3, 2013
I won't be watching the third test. I couldn't pick Wales off a map - why would I want to watch them play Australia?— Ross O'Carroll-Kelly (@RossOCK) July 3, 2013
There's an angry mob gathering outside Kiely's of Donnybrook #justiceforBOD— Eoin O'Malley (@AnMailleach) July 3, 2013
”There will be a Lions captain’s meeting Friday and Brian was probably preparing a speech for that from last Monday. And then he gets the tap on the shoulder from Warren.
For around ten seconds every possible thought and configuration is going through his head. ‘Is he going telling me I’m captain?’ At least in my case I knew Deccie wasn’t ringing me in the Opera House to tell me I’d been made Irish captain....”
- Read Ronan O’Gara’s unmissable column in tomorrow’s Irish Examiner.
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