Peter O’Mahony drawing inspiration from past glories
‘I was there when they won the two trophies and it was an unbelievable part of my life too’
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony accepts the plaudits as he leaves the pitch after the victory over Toulouse at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
This clash of one-time European superpowers, two- and four-time winners respectively who met in the 2008 decider, resonated of past glories but also illustrated their present wellbeing.
Munster haven’t lifted the trophy since, and Toulouse not since 2010, but as with their last appearance in the quarter-finals three seasons ago, this latest instalment confirmed that Munster are the superior force at the moment and perhaps for a while to go yet.
It should be noted Munster have continued to dine at Europe’s top table more so than Toulouse, reaching the semi-finals in the supposedly ‘fallow’ years of 2013 – when coming within a whisker of beating Clermont away in Ronan O’Gara’s last game – and 2014, when whistled off the park away to Toulon and kicked out of the competition by Jonny Wilkinson’s boot.
In any event, now this Munster team are starting to shape their own history. Jerry Flannery has said he could understand if all the talk of 2006 and ’08 got on their nerves of the current squad, although Peter O’Mahony is more of the view that past achievements can be a source of inspiration than a monkey on their collective backs.
“I wouldn’t say it gets on my nerves,” said the Munster skipper late on Saturday evening in the bowels of Thomond Park where the bonhomie could still be heard in pockets of the ground.
“I was there when they won the two trophies and it was an unbelievable part of my life too. I look back on it with fond memories and wanting to be there, wanting to get there to see the guys who had success at the club.”
“That is what you want, to leave when you finish having won trophies with Munster and obviously nationally as well. I’d be massively jealous of guys who have won at Munster and as I said already it is a massive part of the group that is here now and the guys that are pushing for semis and finals. What has gone on in the club has a big part to do with it as well.”
And retaining the link with the heroes of 2006 and 2008, and many other years before that and since, is always welcomed.
O’Gara was one of those who was in attendance and visited the home dressing-room after the game.
“It is always great to have the guys who have been through it and know what the craic is,” said O’Mahony. “It’s great to have them around the dressing room; only delighted to have them in. They have given so much to the club. It was a big part of their lives. They will always be welcomed back.”
For all his satisfaction at reaching yet another semi-final, O’Mahony is also a standard-bearer, and his mood reflected the frustration with a performance that was not perfect.
“I thought at times our discipline was poor. I was very disappointed in our discipline to be honest. The first half we conceded way too many penalties. In the second half much the same as well. We had talked about it. It was better in the second half but still we must have been well into double figures. I don’t know the number but that is always something that would always stand out after a game, especially against teams of this quality, how low can you keep the penalty count and we didn’t do that well today.”
O’Mahony’s abilities in the lineout were evident in two trademark steals and a couple of takes, as well as leading the team so effectively for his 50 minutes on the pitch.
“I was happy enough at times. Our lineout defence went well but to be fair Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland and Dave O’Callaghan do all the homework, all the real graft and the extra few hours that it entails.
“All I have to do is jump when I am told to jump. That is actually the case. They do all the graft and massive credit has to go to them on that. I found it tough at times to get into the game but look when you go out and win a quarter-final at home against a team of the quality of Toulouse you have got to be happy.”
Niall Scannell, noting how many of this side such as himself are “novices at this stage of the competition, recalled: “I remember Rassie saying at the start of the campaign that we were the easy team in the group and he wasn’t lying or trying to take pressure away. That was the reality of it and we knew we had to build from there, we had to improve massively and we did.”
“I think we just have to keep growing. The calibre of opponent there now, we have to keep growing. We’re still novices around this, but if we can kick on it’ll be brilliant and we’ll have to for the semi-final.”