Peter O’Mahony has little time for contract questions
Munster captain and CJ Stander remain flight risks if new IRFU deals cannot be confirmed
Peter O’Mahony at Munster’s press conference. Your emotion is with the club and getting it right for the weekend, you know what I mean?” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Until the IRFU conclude contract negotiations in the off-season, a utopian idea that would deny them a valuable bargaining tool, media gatherings like yesterday’s in Limerick will be unavoidable.
Inevitably, Peter O’Mahony ended up fielding questions about potentially leaving the province rather than Saturday’s Champions Cup meeting with Leicester.
Both the Munster captain and CJ Stander remain genuine flight risks.
“I’m hoping to have it wrapped up one way or the other by the new year,” said O’Mahony.
He has been offered a national contract worth half the amount an interested French club is willing to pay.
The follow up question inadvertently entered Reggie Corrigan territory. “Because you’re a Munster man true and true, aren’t you?”
“Obviously I am but, look, it’s professional sport, it’s a short career, and as I said hopefully it will be done by the new year one way or the other.”
The inability of IRFU negotiator David Nucifora and O’Mahony’s agent Conor Ridge to reach an agreement drags this process into Munster’s season-defining duels with the Tigers.
The Irish Times has learned that two French clubs and one English team are keen to sign the flanker who captained the British and Irish Lions against New Zealand last summer.
“Look lads, I can’t sit here as a Munster captain and discuss that with ye, you know what I mean? That’s for my agents to deal with. I’ll leave it at that.”
But on it will go until O’Mahony and Stander sign their names on IRFU-headed paper or opt to play out their careers in international exile.
Munster have built their brand upon these men; two players seeking a salary closer, yet still significantly below, their market value.
That market being based on the whimsical competitiveness of French and English billionaires. Wealthy people who wrestled control of the tournament everyone re-enters this weekend.
The Champions Cup returns to Thomond Park late Saturday evening with Munster offering Conor Murray and O’Mahony for interview to help sell remaining tickets.
“Hopefully they all get sorted, but as a distraction it’s not,” said Murray. “It’s genuinely not.”
“I think we manage it really well as a playing group,” Murray continued. “I think we know what is true and what is false and what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to.
“Having said that, what has happened with Donners [Donnacha Ryan moved to Racing 92] and Zeebs [Zebo is following Ryan to Paris this summer], hopefully it all gets sorted because it is probably a bit more of a reality the players that can leave their clubs.
“Hopefully it won’t happen with Pete or CJ. I wouldn’t think it will.”
Murray’s point is well made – professionals can narrow focus to the task at hand and agents are paid to rattle the IRFU cage via the media – but Brian O’Driscoll recently revealed when his contract negotiations entered the Six Nations it forced him to inform then Ireland coach Declan Kidney that it was hindering his ability to captain Ireland.
“My last contract was sorted pretty quickly which was great for me, but before when things get dragged out and no-one is agreeing and there is a bit of to-ing and fro-ing it does distract you,” Murray conceded. “You might think it doesn’t but it will get to you at some stage.
‘Creates a happy player’
“I do know that it is very important for players to get their value, be happy with what the structure of their contract is because that creates a happy player. It creates a player who is not thinking about those kind of things, creates a player who can focus on rugby.”
Along with O’Mahony and Stander, players who cannot be placed in that category this week are Iain Henderson, Garry Ringrose, Andrew Conway, Jared Payne, Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe and Rory Best.
“What is going on is a business situation, it’s business deals, it’s separate,” said O’Mahony. “Your emotion is with the club and getting it right for the weekend, you know what I mean? The lads are dealing with it. It’s a different part of my life at the moment.
“I might have to make a yes or no call but that is just it. There has to be a decision made at some stage.
“I would have liked to have had it done sooner than this to be honest with you. It is just the way it has fallen. To be fair to David, he has got a lot of guys to do. It’s difficult to get them all done early, but I would certainly prefer to get it done a bit earlier but that is the joys of it.”
One way or the other, this will be the most valuable contract of the 28-year-old’s career.
“[Clubs] seem to have a lot more interest this time than they did last time. It’s just the way it happens, isn’t it? It’s part of rugby. I have made my comment. I am hoping to get it done by January one way or the other. That is the business side of it done. It’s Leicester for me this week as I said.”
Negotiations are ongoing.