He may have made his debut for Leinster almost ten years ago, but Brian O’Driscoll, owing to injuries and Ireland commitments, will only be making his 100th appearance for the province against Edinburgh on Friday night.
A fresh faced O’Driscoll made his senior bow for Leinster against Munster in an interprovincial encounter at Temple Hill, the home of Cork Constitution, in August 1999.
Since then, the Clontarf man has become a world renowned player, captaining Leinster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.
He has played 51 times for the province in the Heineken Cup, scoring 20 tries in the process, while he has also bagged 17 tries in 39 outings in the Celtic/Magners League and Celtic Cup.
Speaking ahead of his 100th Leinster appearance, the game-breaking centre said that he will be proud to reach the landmark and that he is looking forward to return to competitive action after being sidelined by a hamstring injury.
“I’m in my ninth season now with Leinster and it will be a proud moment when I make my 100th appearance for Leinster,” O’Driscoll admitted.
“If I’m honest about it, reaching this landmark wouldn’t have been in my mind when I stepped out for Leinster against Munster that day at Temple Hill.
“I remember that we lost the match and my memory from the game was chasing John Kelly up the length of the pitch and not quite getting to him as he went in to score!”
Of course, the 29-year-old’s provincial debut was unusual in that it came two months after he had won the first of his 83 Ireland caps, against Australia in a summer tour match.
“My provincial debut came after my international debut, which was weird at the time, but looking back on my Leinster career it is a big thing for me.
“I look at friends who have reached the milestone before me and I don’t know what it says about my fitness over the years that it has taken so many seasons of being a regular starter to accumulate 100 caps!
“It is hard missing out but I suppose I’ve become a better watcher of games – I’ve had to!
“It’s great that the team has been doing so well recently and though I would have loved to help them, it’s important that we continue to pick up the victories.”
O’Driscoll picked out Leinster’s title win in the inaugural Celtic League in 2001, under then coach Matt Williams, as one of his highlights with the province.
“The big wins in the big games likes beating Toulouse away from home in the Heineken Cup, beating Leicester twice at home and Montferrand away. Games like that are extremely special.
“Winning the Celtic League in its inaugural year was something I’ll treasure. Unfortunately any specific highlights that I have would be over individual games rather than as something tangible,” he added.
The Ireland skipper could soon be lifting his second piece of silverware as a Leinster player as Michael Cheika’s side are a full 12 points clear at the top of the Magners League table with just three rounds of matches to go.
For the first of those remaining fixtures, against Edinburgh at Murrayfield, O’Driscoll will be back in the Leinster line-up for his first time since their final Heineken Cup pool match against Leicester Tigers on January 19.
“As we approach these last few games it’s important that we don’t think about where we are and treat every game on its own merit. The position in the table shouldn’t affect our mindset or how we approach games.
“Friday’s game will be a great occasion. Our support this year has been fantastic and great credit must go to the Leinster public for supporting the side, particularly when the team has been missing some international players,” O’Driscoll said ahead of his first league outing since the win over the Ospreys on January 5.
“The support that we have received over the years has gone from strength to strength and it does give the team a huge lift.
“I hope that our supporters continue to back the team and we will be doing our best to try and bring some silverware home for them.”