Just two years Eoin O’Malley’s career was hanging by a thread – now the 23-year-old is wearing the Leinster No.13 shirt and has told the region’s most famous son not to expect it back anytime soon.
O’Malley suffered a hip injury that kept him out for a year only to pick up an ankle knock that had him sidelined for a further three months.
During that time O’Malley was left sweating over whether Leinster would offer him a new deal.
Fortunately for both parties they did particularly with O’Driscoll being absent this season first through Ireland’s World Cup campaign and then through a shoulder injury that will keep him out for up to six months
The younger centre fully intends to make the most of his absence after touching down twice against Glasgow Warriors in the Heineken Cup and now has a clear run of games in the RaboDirect PRO12 between him and Fergus McFadden.
And although there’s no end of respect for his senior counterparts, O’Malley also knows they are in direct competition for a starting berth.
He said: “Brian is always trying to encourage the next generation of young players. He has put so much into representing Leinster, he knows there’s more than just the next game he wants to keep the region going for years to come.
“I don’t think it will ever get too competitive between us but he is trying to get back as soon as he can and I know he will bit fit and hungry as ever. My job will be to keep him waiting a bit longer.
“I suppose I didn’t always have faith I would come back. It was a couple of years back and I had been out for nearly the entire season so I was nowhere near an established player. I had not played a lot of games so there was a lot of pressure for getting another contract.
“They re-signed me even though I had not played – I didn’t ask I just signed the piece of paper as quickly as possible.
“It does make you appreciated everything a bit more. It was a tough time and I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t worked out but it just makes you want to make the most of the second chance you have got.
“I don’t think playing in the No. 13 shirt puts anymore pressure on me. It is just a massive opportunity with the players that are out. My main motivation is to play well for my home province and keep wearing that jersey.”
The 38-13 defeat of Glasgow Warriors was doubly sweet for O’Malley – not just on the account of his tries – but after the Scottish team ended Leinster’s long unbeaten run at the RDS in September.
The Warriors came away 23-19 victors in the RaboDirect PRO12 and with their celebratory songs still ringing in his ears, O’Malley was determined not to let lightning strike twice.
He said: “The fact it was Glasgow did give us extra motivation, although it was a pretty different group of players to the one that lost a couple of months ago.
“For me and a couple of others, we remember being in the dressing room and hearing Glasgow singing their songs – I had never experienced that before and I don’t want to again.
“It was a pretty bleak dressing room afterwards and there were not too many guys who had experienced that before. The younger guys could appreciate the disappointment and it is never nice to be the ones in the shirt that have let that record slip.
“There’s definitely an emphasis on rebuilding that home record. The support we get here is fantastic and we feel a responsibility to perform we go out there.”