Peter O’Mahony steps up when his country calls
Willpower, quiet leadership and calmness under pressure kept the wolves from the door on countless occasions
Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony after the match against Canada in Toronto. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.
Here ends the Peter O’Mahony tour. Not even dyed-in-the-wool Munster folk would have predicted before the season got underway that this successful North American adventure would be called that.
Paul O’Connell will probably reclaim the Irish captaincy in November, with Heaslip succeeding Leo Cullen in Leinster, but Joe Schmidt now has a genuine long-term alternative.
O’Mahony’s willpower, that quiet leadership of his, allied by a ferocity and calmness under pressure kept the wolves from the door on countless occasions during these Houston and Toronto battles.
When Rory Best followed the glut of Irish leaders to Australia before the tour left the Carton House station, interim head coach Les Kiss had but one option.
Looks nailed on
There is no question about O’Mahony’s officer role in Ireland’s leadership pyramid for the foreseeable future. And, regardless of Stephen Ferris ever regaining fitness, his place in the backrow looks nailed on.
He also looks a sure bet to replace Doug Howlett as the permanent Munster captain.
“It was a tough year,” said Les Kiss, the only coach retained by Joe Schmidt from the Declan Kidney regime that ended so depressingly in Rome last March. “60-0 [defeat to New Zealand] some 12 months ago certainly hung there for a while.
“We went into the November series, got a great result against Argentina, got off to a great start against Wales when the boys did a fantastic job of pulling themselves together and just getting to that point.”
It went downhill thereafter, momentarily stalled by a draw with France, but through it all O’Mahony was burrowing away, challenging humongous Springboks and Englishmen.
It’s his controlled ferocity that makes the Cork man such an intimidating figure in the trenches. Just ask Canadian scrumhalf Phil Mack.
During the week O’Mahony had spoken about the importance of discipline. “That’s not to say we’ll leave any player behind,” he added.
When Mack gave him a sneaky stamp, granted he was offside, early in the first half, the Corkonian leaped up, scragged the number nine’s collar and delivered some choice words.
Everyone piled in but O’Mahony kept hold of Mack’s jersey, bulging eyes fixed coldly on his new friend. You know what you did.
“Ah, look, these things happen if you’re lying on the wrong side you get a foot in it, that’s all it was. It’s a Test game and you’re going at it tooth and nail, that’s the end of it,” said O’Mahony afterwards.
“We talked about being together and being united as a squad and not leaving anyone behind and certainly the pack looks after their nine and 10.”
There were other moments; so many important carries and brutal tackles, but he also found the time to keep an eye on Ian Madigan.
Canadian forwards were targeting Madigan but when Jason Marshall dropped a late shoulder the prop couldn’t have know he would receive something similar within seconds. Always watching, O’Mahony took a slight detour en route to the breakdown.
A tactical brain was also evident. Nearing half-time and leading 12-9, Ireland had a penalty well within Ian Madigan’s range. Down the line they agreed. It didn’t yield any points but the intent and courage was unquestionable.
With so many absentees, this so easily could have become a depressing journey that ended with severely damaged confidence levels.
One man’s deeds, more than anyone else, refused to allow that to happen.