O'Mahony primed for daunting Wales fixture
“I don’t want to say, ‘I’m X’ or ‘I’m Y’. You want to take bits and pieces from different players and add them to your skill-set. But you’re never going to be as good as Wally was at doing certain things, or as good as Axel was, or as good as Seán O’Brien is. You try and take bits and you try and improve your game at all times but I don’t feel like I’ve taken the jersey off anyone. People have been there before me and . . . I won’t be here forever, but I’m doing my best as I am. [At number] Seven you’re more at the coalface. . . . first phase is your game, and then six and eight you’re given a bit more time to float and carry more.
I started off with number eight for Munster, had a game at number seven before November, then went to number six for November and kind of stayed . . . I’m happy enough.”
Thrilled as he is to be starting alongside the aforementioned European Player of the Year and the new captain, O’Mahony maintains he has no preference. “No, I wouldn’t . . . I’m over the moon that I’ve got a starting jersey . . . you can’t take them for granted.”
For this pivotal opener, which he describes as “huge”, O’Mahony has been retained for his direct, forceful brand of hard running and tackling, but also in part for his lineout abilities – an area Ireland are liable to target given Welsh injuries in the secondrow.
He and Donnacha Ryan will be key men, where once it would have been Quinlan and Paul O’Connell. One of O’Mahony’s favourite mementoes is a photograph of himself and Ryan blessing themselves before being introduced as a double substitution on his debut against Italy.
“People don’t see it, but the work he puts in,” says O’Mahony about Ryan. “He’s had outstanding characters in that jersey before him that he has learned a lot off.
“The amount of work he puts in and the time and hours watching videos is incredible. Everyone in the squad looks up to him.”
Innately modest and humble like Ryan too, O’Mahony’s journey may have been quicker but, like of all of a team drawn from the four provinces, green reigns.
“Ireland is the ultimate,” he says, assuming that pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming mode again. “What a privilege and honour it is to pull on an international jersey, whatever country you are from. To pull on an Irish jersey is the ultimate.”