Donnacha Ryan bids farewell but there’s no room for sentimentality
Peter O’Mahony spoke about a season full of highs and one particular tragic low point
Munster’s Simon Zebo and fellow teammates try to lift Donnacha Ryan into the air at the end of the game. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Donnacha Ryan managed to elude his teammates and the media as both sought to mark the significance of his final match at Thomond Park following a 13-year career in the red jersey of Munster.
There is still one game to go, Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 final against the Scarlets at the Aviva stadium before he departs for Racing 92 in the summer.
Ryan managed to wriggle free of several players who looked to hoist him shoulder high for a lap of honour at the end of the 23-3 victory over the Ospreys. He then declined an invitation to articulate his innermost thoughts, maybe saving them for the autobiography. He would be loathe to permit any distractions for the team.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony stepped into the breach and offered a thoughtful summation of a season in which the province tragically lost an inspirational former player and coach in Anthony Foley and how they discovered the courage and character to rebuild from a low ebb emotionally.
He explained: “I could be here all day talking about the season. Obviously we have had some of the lowest lows of all time and then we’ve put in a lot of very good performances.
“We were well into our off-season this time last year, and we didn’t have any rugby to play. Now we’re playing up the last week you can play in our domestic league. It’s testament to the guys, we’ve knuckled down, we’ve stuck to what we have been given and we’ve made a final.
“We haven’t won anything but we’ve put ourselves in a position to win something. With the year that we have had, it would be a nice thing to do but we’ve an incredibly difficult test coming up (against Scarlets). We know that if we are going to win this thing, we are going to have to keep our best for the very last weekend of the competition.
“I’m very proud, very proud. It was difficult at times. We won a lot of games this year in the last five or 10 minutes whereas last year, we were probably on the receiving end of those loses. It’s a difficult thing to do but we’ve stuck at it and trained unbelievably hard.”
There is one final obstacle in every sense of the phrase, and a considerable one at that in the form of the Scarlets, conquerors of Leinster at the RDS on Friday night and, in late February of Munster, coming back from an almost three try deficit; a match that also took place away from west Wales.
O’Mahony continued: “They are in incredible form. Whatever we went up, 20/21 points to three up at half time. We were playing well that day and they came back and obviously beat us.
“You saw the quality they have (in the game against Leinster). The quality of rugby they played, how efficient they were with the ball, how good they were at the breakdown. They’re a very complete team and whoever beats them is going to have to be very good.
“There is always more to come but I think if we are going to win next weekend, it’s got to be our best performance of the year. With the form that the Scarlets are in, it’s going to take that and probably more.”