O'Mahony: ‘You can’t be feeling sorry for yourself’

Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

If it’s a certain tone you want setting off the back of a thumping opening defeat and in the days ahead of a must-win second act, then Peter O’Mahony really is your man. 

Nobody does a steely glare like the Munster flanker and few can match the dramatic impact of the four-, five- and six-second pregnant pauses, as he mulls over each question before delivering a reply coated in gravitas and unburdened by bullshit.

Modern sport being what it is, these kind of media performances are directed not so much at the media or the public as much as the players within what they continue to call the ‘bubble’. 

One of the team’s vice-captains, O’Mahony has established a clear and concise agenda.

“You cannot be feeling sorry for yourself,” he insisted after Ireland’s 12-point loss to England in Dublin on Saturday. “You cannot be moping around the team room up there. It is not something we are used to, all of a sudden, Ireland losing rugby games. 

"It is not something that sits well with any of us. It certainly hurt us, the last 48 hours. That is only natural for a competitive athlete to be hurt after something like that, but you cannot let that fester now, because the beauty of it is that you have a massive international this weekend.”

The trip to Scotland was always going to be arduous, but all the more so now, given Ireland are licking some unfamiliar wounds and Gregor Townsend’s side have continued their recent surge in form with an expected mauling of Italy.

A second straight defeat would be a monumental blow to an Irish side that swept into the Six Nations on the high of last November’s defeat of New Zealand and a Grand Slam campaign last spring and one talked up for World Cup honours later this year.

Eddie Jones has already played down the relevance of results and performances at this time of year when asked to frame England’s victory in the context of the big one to come in Japan and there doesn’t appear to be any alarms going off at the Ireland team base in Kildare just yet.

No, I don’t know why we would be panicking. We’ve been sitting here for a long time now and it’s been all positive this and that, but we were up against one of the best teams in the world and we got beaten and we’re certainly not going to shy away from that.

There would be no knee-jerk shift away from the tactics which have taken them so far, he insisted, and there was a solitary word offered in response when asked if the side could retain their tournament title despite the inability to claim even a losing bonus point first up.

“Absolutely.”

It wasn’t all adherence to the unified party line.

Coach Joe Schmidt revealed on Saturday night he had felt the dressing room atmosphere to be flat prior to kick-off and Conor Murray suggested England, hammered at home by Ireland last March, may have supped from a deeper motivational pool than their hosts.

“No, I don’t think so,” said O’Mahony. “For me, England at home says enough in itself, so I don’t think we weren’t motivated to go and win at home. 

"No, that doesn’t sit well with me. Rugby-wise we were beaten by a better rugby team at the weekend.”

If not motivation, then there were plenty of other possible explanations for the startling loss. 

Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Schmidt also suggested that Ireland had been “beaten up”, “bullied” by England in much the same manner as New Zealand had done unto them in November of 2016, but O’Mahony diverted the inquisition instead towards a lack of accuracy on Ireland’s part. 

Whatever the answer, he insists it is on the players rather than the coaches to make amends.

“It is all about that. We are given an excellent plan every week and it is handed over to us. You have guys like Johnny (Sexton) and Bestie (Rory Best) and these kind of people who grab it by the throat and move it on. That is why we have been so successful.

“We have an excellent coaching staff behind us, but they don’t take the field with you and we understand that.

“It has to be down to the players at the end of the day, and we hold ourselves accountable for what happened last weekend, and we know it needs to be better, that is something we want to put, ourselves, right.”

There was some talk of Scotland in the midst of all this soul-searching, but it was perfunctory stuff. 

A box to be ticked. Ireland will spend more of their time this week looking in the mirror, rather than at clips of their opponents on laptops.

Munster lock Billy Holland has joined Joe Schmidt’s squad at their Carton House training base.

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