London providing a new lease of life for one of Munster's favourite sons
INTERVIEW: TOMÁS O'LEARYThe London-Irish scrumhalf is enjoying the hectic challenge of life in the Premiership
Tomás O’Leary is reinventing himself at London Irish alright. He turned 29 on Monday and, as a birthday treat, his agent, Niall Woods, somehow obtained two tickets to the premiere of the Bond movie Skyfall; a 50th anniversary of a British institution at the Royal Albert Hall no less.
The boy’s doing good.
“I managed to get two tickets through “Crow” to the Bond Premiere in the Royal Albert Hall. That was pretty cool, that was pretty slick. Like, you wouldn’t be doing that in Cork!” O’Leary went with his girlfriend Julie. “She’s obsessed with Bond. It was an awesome experience. We didn’t chat to any of the stars or anything, but it was pretty surreal strolling past Daniel Craig and the rest of the cast on the red carpet. Cool show too.”
All of which adds to the feel- good factor of his new life in London, or Richmond to be exact where O’Leary has an apartment.
“It wasn’t exactly a hard transition,” he says with a chuckle. “Coming into the summer here was nice and chilling out in Richmond is pretty easy. It’s exactly what I needed like. I’m glad I did it.”
London Irish, who host the champions Harlequins in the televised match tomorrow afternoon, have had three pre-season friendlies, six Aviva Premiership games and couple of wins in the Amlin Challenge Cup, and O’Leary has started all of them, “It’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve done that, probably back to school days or whatever because with Munster and the competition and then player/management schemes, you just don’t do that. It’s just what I needed to just get back playing rugby and forget about all the other side of things.
“It’s freshened me up big time and I’m starting to enjoy my rugby again which for the last year and a half, or two, I wasn’t enjoying the game. It became more of a chore and the harder I tried, the more of a hole I dug for myself. It’s totally refreshing and I’m just happier again.”
The ways his career turned in the last couple of years you wonder did he kick a black cat, and while under a ladder for that matter. Having been a central figure in a Heineken Cup triumph and a Grand Slam in 2008 and ’09, O’Leary was picked for the Lions tour of South Africa. Three days later he suffered a broken ankle in a Munster-Scarlets League game as Musgrave Park.
Ever since, whatever could go wrong did go wrong. The following season a broken thumb and a persistent back problem were compounded by a freakish accident in training with the Irish squad which resulted in a nasty, complicated eye injury.
There was also the emergence of Conor Murray, at first with Munster and then with Ireland, as O’Leary lost form and missed out on the World Cup. “The injuries don’t help and my form wasn’t great. With the injuries, with the limited game times, you automatically try harder with the chances you get and probably put a bit more pressure on yourself than you need to. Maybe it was just me trying to force it.