Search icon


03rd Jul 2013

Burning Issue: Do you care as you much as you did about the Lions after BOD’s omission?

Brian O'Driscoll's omission from the Lions squad caused massive shock and massive disappointment amongst Irish fans earlier today, but should that affect our support for the Lions ahead of the final test? Two JOEs argue the case.


Brian O’Driscoll’s omission from the Lions squad caused massive shock and massive disappointment amongst Irish fans earlier today, but should that affect our support for the Lions ahead of the final test? Two JOEs argue the case.


Conor Heneghan says… First things first, I was as shocked and appalled by Warren Gatland’s decision to drop Brian O’Driscoll from the Lions team and the squad for the final test against the Wallabies this weekend as most Irish rugby fans. In fact, my reaction was a bit like this.

O’Driscoll wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders in the first two tests but there were few, particularly in the backline, who were and he was as effective in defence as he ever was, something that was illustrated by a stat that has been doing the rounds today about O’Driscoll making a team-high 23 tackles and missing none in the first two games.

They say there is no room for sentiment in sport, but Warren Gatland denying one of the greats of the game and one the Lions all-time greats the chance to captain the side to a first series win in 16 years in what would be his last ever game in the famous red jersey is a crushing blow, all the more so because he would have been in the team on merit for his ability, his leadership skills and a whole heap of experience.

Such is the class of the man, however, that he wasn’t about to wallow in self-pity after being dealt what must rank amongst the biggest personal disappointments of his career to date. Yes, he’s hurting and he admitted as much, but as huge a character he is, as great a player he is and as big a reaction as the decision to drop him has generated over here, the main priority is, as he said himself, making sure that the squad selected for Saturday is in the best possible shape to claim that all-elusive series win.

Yes, it’s very disappointing that O’Driscoll won’t be there to potentially captain the side the victory, but if a supporter says that the series doesn’t mean as much now that he’s not in the side, it begs questions about why they follow the Lions in the first place.

Are they wholly behind the team itself or do they follow the Lions merely to have another chance to cheer on Irish players on the world stage?

How do you think Scottish fans of the Lions feel, for example? At least we still have three representatives in the starting team; there’s only one Scottish player in the entire 23 for God’s sake.

And that’s another thing. While Brian O’Driscoll is receiving a whole lot of sympathy right now, and deservingly so, I feel pretty sorry for Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Bowe and particularly Sean O’Brien, who should be the toast of the country right now after being called up to make his first start for the Lions in a test series, but whose achievement has been completely overshadowed by the treatment dished out to his Leinster, Ireland and Lions team-mate.

That’s not to mention Jamie Heaslip, whose omission from the squad despite a pretty solid tour to date has barely warranted a mention and Conor Murray, who was impressive enough from the bench last Saturday to force the omission of the guy who started last Saturday’s test, Ben Youngs, from the match-day squad.

The reaction that O’Driscoll’s omission from the squad – and bear in mind, they’re as shocked Down Under and elsewhere as we are here – is a tribute to the measure of the man and his standing in rugby and beyond; people with only a passing interest in rugby were taken aback and, without trying to fall victim to hyperbole here, it is the biggest reaction to a sporting story we can remember since the Henry handball in Paris.

But at the end of the day, a man was dropped. Cruel yes, but that’s sport. The man with the most cause to be disappointed has taken it on the chin and that should be all that matters.

While he’ll be hurting, he’ll want the Lions to win as much as if he was playing on Saturday and so should everyone else.

Sean Nolan says… With the best will in the world, some of the gloss is gone off the Lions tour now for the majority of Irish fans, including myself.

Like its second cousin the Ryder Cup, the British and Irish Lions concept requires a *horrible phrase alert* ‘buy in’ from the more casual sports fan.

Your GAA team is your GAA team from birth, you follow the Irish national team unswervingly in everything from cricket to soccer and your rushed decision in school to pick an English side to support is one you are lumbered with for life.

But events like the Lions or the Ryder Cup are not real, week in, week out allegiances so you need to be excited and engaged by the clashes to get that ‘fan’ buzz that comes much more naturally in your regular sporting fix.

That partly, but not wholly, explains the level of hyping performed by Sky Sports to get you to watch both the Ryder Cup and the Lions. While most hardcore rugby fans won’t need the push, knowing the history and tradition of the Lions, the more casual fan, who may only really watch the Six Nations, needs to identify with someone or something to get on the Lions bandwagon.

And that is why the omission of Brian O’Driscoll has led so many folks to declare today that they are not that bothered about the rest of the tour and some have even gone so far as to suggest that they will be shouting for the Aussies now.

While we won’t be going quite that far, we can certainly see their point of view. Come Saturday morning I’ll definitely be sitting down to watch the game and, as always, I’ll be hoping the Lions win, mainly because who doesn’t like to see the Aussies lose and the team has put in such efforts to get within one game of a historic win.

But part of me will be distracted, by a simmering anger. Part of that will be down to the fact I believe that Gatland has robbed us of our best player and our best chance of winning. Part of that will be down to the fact that one of the all time greats misses out on one more shot at Lions glory and part of that will be the down to the sheer injustice of it all.

The decision to leave BOD in the stands and out of the matchday 23 just seems bizarre and grossly unfair. And if there is anything that turns people off a sport it is a lack of fairness.

From Thierry Henry’s handball to doping in the Tour, feeling cheated in any way is a sure fire way to send your audience scurrying for the remote. And the senseless omission of the Leinster man from one of the biggest days left on his stellar career is just infuriating and cruel beyond belief.

As I said, the fair weather fan is almost certainly not tuning in now, and even for the much more committed, the game will be viewed through BOD tinted glasses. Gatland may be proved right, and Davies and Roberts may run in a few series-winning tries, but if they do the cheers will be muted a touch, at least from my couch.