O’Mahony’s praise of Schmidt shines through disappointment
Ireland flanker admits side did not perform to standard that was needed at World Cup
Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony arriving at Dublin Airport on Tuesday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
A brief media scrum at Dublin Airport represented the final chapter in Peter O’Mahony’s Rugby World Cup. Returning through London on a long-haul flight, the players wanted to divest themselves of the last remnants of a tournament that culminated in crushing disappointment.
The manner of the quarter-final defeat to New Zealand won’t wash out for a while and there was understandably little appetite to sift through last Saturday’s events on the premise that is still painful and because it serves no constructive purpose in the short term.
O’Mahony admitted: “I haven’t had a chance to look back at it. Obviously we didn’t perform to where we need to be performing or where we want to be performing.”
When an Ireland squad reconvenes to prepare for the 2020 Six Nations Championship under new head coach Andy Farrell they’ll undoubtedly revisit the events in Japan. Until then the players will adopt a mode of regeneration, mental and physical.
O’Mahony confirmed as much when addressing the issue of whether getting back on the pitch would be cathartic and accelerate the healing process. Players will be reintroduced to provincial rugby on a phased basis, predicated on match minutes prior to and during the World Cup.
The Munster captain played in all five Ireland matches in Japan, starting up and racking up 239 minutes, despite picking up an injury after 27 minutes of the opening game against Scotland. He was typically competitive and combative on the pitch.
“Yeah, I think a rest is the main thing at the moment, just to refresh the body, refresh the mind and we’ll see what the story is over the next couple of weeks. They’ll [the Irish squad members] be chatting to the provinces and that sort of thing.”
No Ireland team wants to be defined by a World Cup, a tournament which has served to tantalise in terms of a handful of results but the bottom line has, without exception, been framed by disappointment.
O’Mahony continued: “It’s very important, we’ve always learned from our experiences, and you probably learn most from disappointment. I certainly hope that it’s not a defining moment for my career, but look, all these experiences and moments in careers are ones we’ll always look back on for reference for future success hopefully.”
He was asked whether he would prefer to be injured and miss out on being part of losing a World Cup quarter-final, as was the case in 2015, rather than being part of a substandard performance as was the case at the weekend. The hypothesis understandably didn’t appeal too much, his response succinct. “If it was just me I’d rather be here injured and the boys have won.”
The one time that the Munster and Ireland flanker did become animated was when questioned about departing Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and what legacy he’s left following his 6½-year tenure in charge.
O’Mahony tendered: “We could be here for a while with the answer. I think for me he’s changed the prospect and the outlook on rugby for young generations, which is probably the biggest thing you could say about any person’s career.
“There are kids in Ireland now who will be expecting to be successful, expecting to win trophies regularly, and there will be a big huge portion of that that will be down to Joe’s work and his contribution to Irish rugby.
“Not only has he changed the direction of my career and this team’s career, but he’s changed probably the careers of the guys who are in primary and secondary school at the moment, so he’s done incredible work.”
The frustration for all involved with Ireland’s World Cup in Japan is that they didn’t properly represent the quality within the playing group when weighed against previous achievements, something that manifest itself periodically throughout 2019.
O’Mahony will at least return to Munster colours in the coming weeks, a different focus for which he will be grateful.