Munster’s Peter O’Mahony eager to make up for lost time

Inspirational captain almost ready to return to action after a year out due to injury

Peter O’Mahony: “It certainly does make it frustrating [being injured] because you want to be on the pitch and influencing training.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony: “It certainly does make it frustrating [being injured] because you want to be on the pitch and influencing training.” Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

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“Tell him he had the game of his life,” was Joe Schmidt’s immediate assessment as Peter O’Mahony was carted out of the Millennium Stadium last October. Rare praise and a heroic way for any man to sign off on an epic career.

But O’Mahony had just turned 26.

Still the Munster captain, as new coach Rassie Erasmus confirmed he will remain, will be back playing just shy of a full year out following the knee injury sustained against France at the World Cup.

“Another couple of weeks,” said O’Mahony at the Guinness Pro 12 launch. “I am hoping to play somewhere around [rounds] two, three, four.”

That would see the then 27-year-old return against Edinburgh, at the latest, in Limerick on September 24th.

“I’m back doing nearly everything now. I didn’t expect it to be this long.

“You just have to battle through the lows. I certainly wasn’t at the lowest point of my career. As rugby players you want to be on the pitch playing, that’s part of it. You just have to get through it.”

It will forever be seen as the lost season. At least it opened the road for CJ Stander to captain Munster and gather seven Ireland caps in an award-winning campaign for the South African. There were plenty of losing press conferences for CJ though, which he won’t miss.

“I was delighted to be announced as captain again,” O’Mahony continued.

“It certainly does make it frustrating [being injured] because you want to be on the pitch and influencing training. Influencing the new coaches.”

Maybe his stolen season can help O’Mahony avoid the injury-to-injury, surgery-to-surgery scenario that has cursed Sean O’Brien and Cian Healy (the men Leinster and Ireland hoped to build this era upon).

“I would hope with the bulk of training I have done now I might get a couple of months or a year perhaps back at the end of my career.”

He has had the shoulders operated on as well.

“I’ve been unbelievably lucky as well. I am in the mid-thirties for Irish caps (35) and probably missed out on a few already but that’s part of it unless you are...”

He mentions the “robustness” of Jamie Heaslip.

“I just seem to pick up more knocks than a couple of other guys.”

That’s because of the way he plays.

There has been plenty of change while O’Mahony was out of sight.

The arrival of Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber is coinciding with the move, any week now, into their new, modernised training facility in the University of Limerick.

“They are world class coaches so they have proved two great additions to us. Not just for the players but all the staff have enjoyed the freshness of the two lads coming in.” O’Mahony, like almost everyone, has moved to Limerick because that is where the club is based now. No more commuting back and forth from Cork.

“It’s going to make life a lot easier. I’ve been based up there for the preseason, we are not moved into our facility yet.

“Not that we can do more training but we can use our time more efficiently. Things like recovery are made a lot easier.

“It might not sound important to the general public but the little things around training and recovery and video analysis makes our lives a lot easier.

“It can only be massively positive for us. It is probably about time that we got it done.”

Now Munster have moved, en bloc, from Cork to Limerick and are no longer a split squad, just how ridiculous the situation looked from the outside might become apparent to them.

“Some people use the Cork-Limerick split as an excuse but it can’t be an excuse because over the years Munster have won two European Cups with that set-up,” Billy Holland stated before, in the next breath, showing the invisible damage one professional club training in two cities can create:

“We’re moving into our one centre in the next few weeks, but we’ve all been training in Limerick for the first time ever which has been really good.

“That’s because, not only do you get more face-time with the coaches, [but also] things like Dave Foley had myself and a few of the Cork lads over for a barbecue.

“I’ve played with Dave Foley for years and it’s the first time I’ve ever been in his house!

“Things like that are really important for squad morale and getting to know lads better. Just as the game has progressed and become more professional, it’s more important for us to spend more time together like every other club.”

Twelve Munster players have moved from Cork to Limerick.

“There’s a few lads who are remaining in Cork but spend a few nights a week in Limerick – they’ve kids, families and wives with jobs in Cork,” Holland added.

“It’s been a really positive step for Munster Rugby.”

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