It hurt not being on the pitch for the third and decisive test, but Brian O’Driscoll was the first man out to congratulate the Lions as their 41-16 demolition job on Australia in Sydney secured a first series win in 16 years.
Dropped by coach Warren Gatland for the final game of both the tour and his Lions career, O’Driscoll bore no grudges as he congratulated those who ensured his time in the red shirt ended with a series win.
But Dricco was big enough to offer his congratulations on the pitch and to commend his teammates in front of the cameras.
He told Sky Sports, “I’m delighted, it’s been a rollercoaster week for me but it’s all about being a part of it for me.
“I will always have it on my CV and the negatives will be forgotten. Huge credit goes to the players, the management and staff.”
By Monday, O’Driscoll had taken stock of the week’s dramatic events and outlined just what it all meant to him in a revealing interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
He also admitted that the presence of wife Amy and daughter Sadie, who undertook the lap of honor with her dad, helped him cope with the trauma of being dropped.
O’Driscoll said, “It was nice having my wife, daughter and extended family around this week. It would have been tough sharing disappointment down a phone line.
“I was able to arrange with my wife beforehand that if we did win I would be able to go and get my daughter, Sadie. In the past, I have looked at footballers bringing their kids on to field and wondered what that was all about.
“But you cannot help yourself. You are so proud of this little person you want her to share in your moment for posterity and all those sort of things. It definitely added to the occasion for me.”
He also revealed how a tap on the shoulder last Wednesday was the first hint that he might not be involved in Saturday’s proceedings.
“From Wednesday onwards, hearing the news of the team and not being involved, then having to sit through the game, was tough,” he said.
“I have been so lucky not to have experienced being dropped before. I got dropped as a 17-year-old in a schools game and I got the shepherd’s hook once in an under 21s game with 20 minutes to go against Wales. But I have never been dropped in my professional career.
“I got the tap on the shoulder on Wednesday morning when I was at the coffee machine. Gats and Rob Howley wanted to have a quiet word. I realized a quiet word in the meeting room was not a good sign.
“They were not about to ask me to be captain. That would have been said to me there and then. It was a blow. Having seen others react in the past to being dropped has given me an insight into how to respond and behave properly.
“I have seen guys who are dead men walking on tours when they have not been selected and you cannot be that person. The tour is not about you. For you, the decision is huge.
“It is about doing the right thing for everyone, setting the tone around the lads, doing what needs to be done at training, trying to be positive when you have a big inner disappointment.
“It is not easy, keeping your standards up at training. I have said all along on this tour, that it is the contributions of everyone that will make or break it.
“That was true and remains true. Suddenly I was that person. You cannot say things one week and then behave differently. You have to suck it up. I hope I did my bit last week.”
O’Driscoll did indeed do that. Irish out-half Jonny Sexton, set to get married on Friday, scored one of the decisive second half tries for the Lions and dedicated the win to O’Driscoll on Saturday.
The Paris-bound Irish ace said, “We wanted to do that for Brian O'Driscoll and give him a send off.
“We wanted to do it for Paul O’Connell with his injury, and then for Brian to miss out. I was so disappointed for him, I felt like I had been dropped myself.”
Lions coach Warren Gatland almost quit in the wake of the abuse that came his way after the O’Driscoll decision and denied any sense of vindication after the win.
“I don’t want to gloat. It was a tough call but it’s about the boys, winning the series,” he said.
The Welsh team boss also admitted he was amazed at the reaction to the O’Driscoll decision.
“I was absolutely shocked, it was vitriolic almost in terms of the criticism. We made a tough call and we knew there was going to be some fallout from that,” he said.
“I have not taken a lot of pleasure out of tonight in terms of feeling vindicated. Maybe in a week or two I might get some pleasure out of this, but at the moment there isn’t a lot of pleasure because of the amount of criticism that had been personally placed on me.
“The last 72 hours have been pretty tough personally. That’s why you’re in the job, you’ve got to make tough calls and hopefully, every now and then, one comes through.”