Don’t try and tell Peter O’Mahony that Ireland’s Twickenham trouncing was, in some weird way, a ‘good’ thing.
Amid all the hand-wringing and wailing over the team’s prospects at the fast-approaching World Cup, there was the barely audible voice in the back of a nation’s head that a hiding at this point in time could prove to be, well, a blessing in disguise.
GAA folk like to say that defeats of that nature serve their own valuable purpose in expelling dirty petrol from the tank before the real races begin. Every dark cloud and all that. It’s a mindset that is anathema to a competitor like O’Mahony. You may as well ask a lion to eat vegan.
“Look, we don’t see it that way. They’re Test matches. You hear people saying, ‘oh, maybe it’s a good thing’. It’s not a good thing to lose a game like that. We’re not going to bullshit ourselves by saying, ‘that might be the best thing for us’.
O’Mahony’s stare is imprinted in the minds of the Irish media at this stage. He has been chosen to front up to the microphones time and again, for his club and country, before and after big games when a tone needs to be set.
Easy outs just aren’t in his nature. First game for so many players last week? No excuse. Too much heavy training done in the week leading into it? Ehm, that was basically parked before the first warm-up against Italy. It’s not as if they’ve been lifting tractor tyres all day in camp.
“In the old days you would have gone out and belted each other around the place but we can’t afford to do that these days. You’re going to get guys injured. There is an emphasis on things certainly that we’ve picked, that we want to see a big change in in training.”
O’Mahony’s words would be more soothing were they not the sort to have been uttered by Irish players and coaches so often this year. The last time this side gave a performance at the sort of level expected of them was in the defeat of New Zealand. That’s last November.
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The Six Nations, with its shuddering losses at home to England and away to Wales, was difficult enough to absorb but there was little spark in the perfunctory defeat of Italy earlier this month even before they had their lights punched out in London. Have the lessons from spring not been absorbed through the summer?
“It’s such a long time ago, the Six Nations, and so much has gone on since,” said O’Mahony. “That certainly would have been ideally the way to look at it but it’s a different season, you’re on the back end of a pre-season.
“I’m not going to stand here and make excuses about what happened but it’s been a long time since that game. I’m not going to compare. Cardiff was another day we struggled for lots of different reasons. I don’t think there’s a huge amount of overlap.”