Ryan hails ‘heart on sleeve’ O’Mahony

Ryan hails ‘heart on sleeve’ O’Mahony
James Ryan is going head-to-head with Peter O'Mahony for the Zurich Players' Player of the Year award. Picture: Tommy Dickson

It will be Andy Farrell’s choice who captains Ireland in next year’s Six Nations, but James Ryan believes he has a gem in Peter O’Mahony.

The Leinster and Munster pair are both shortlisted for the Zurich Player’s Player of the Year award this year, as well as Jack Carty and Tadhg Beirne. 

And while some see Ryan as a future captain material, the Leinster and Ireland second-row says the Munster skipper is a hell of a leader. 

O’Mahony will turn 30 just days before Ireland’s World Cup opener in Japan this September, and would be at the ideal age to replace the retiring skipper Rory Best after the tournament.

“I’m very fond of Peter, I think he always speaks very well, I don’t think there’s any bullshit about him,” said Ryan. 

“I think he’s a great leader. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s someone I respect and definitely admire as a player.

“I think he comes up with big moments, doesn’t he? He always seems to be in the right place — if it’s a turnover on the ground, a steal in the air. 

"We all remember that kick [by New Zealand] and he happened to be there and make that catch.

“He just always seems to be in the right place at the right time.”

Ryan hails ‘heart on sleeve’ O’Mahony

O’Mahony has won 57 caps and skippered the British and Irish Lions in the first test back in June 2017. 

The Munster captain can be a quiet figure away from the pitch, but Ryan’s impressed by how he speaks on it.

“He would probably be more of a motivator,” Ryan said. “He’s very smart and well able to contribute on the technical side of the game but there are plenty of lads who would have that role, Johnny [Sexton] and the variety of coaches as well.

“When Pete speaks, people listen and he has a knack, whenever he says something, people want to go and do it.

“He’s got a few medals, maybe not with Munster unfortunately for him, but he’s got Irish medals. 

"Maybe he hasn’t achieved medals with Munster but he certainly has some decorated career. Lions captain speaks for itself.” 

Ryan could be set to add to his glittering list of medals in the coming weeks — with Leinster fighting on two fronts, to retain their PRO14 and Champions Cup titles.

The 22-year-old won all there was to win last season, including the Grand Slam at his first attempt, but things haven’t been as easy this time around.

Leinster are still short odds to end the season with silverware, but Ireland’s Six Nations experience was a humbling one after sweeping aside all opponents last year.

Ryan said: “Obviously, last year was brilliant winning the Grand Slam and all that and then this season didn’t quite go our way. That’s put to bed now, there is a European Cup final in two weeks now. 

"I think there will be plenty of time for a review of the Six Nations in the summer and we will push forward from there.

“I don’t think you can afford to dwell on what went wrong too much, you have got to learn from it but you have to park it pretty quickly because if you are living too much in the past and thinking about what went wrong, there is no point is there?”

Saracens are next up for the province, and Ryan expects a far tougher proposition than in last year’s quarter-final when Leinster blew away the defending champions at Aviva Stadium.

They’ve warmed up for the final with an impressive win over Toulouse in Dublin last month, but Ryan says they’ll need to up their game again.

“It was up there with our best performance of the year,” Ryan said. “To keep Toulouse try-less was pleasing given some of the individuals they have. 

"So we were happy with that performance but I think Saracens are a different beast to Toulouse, so we have to crank up a few notches.

“They are better than last year, I think Billy Vunipola playing for them makes a difference. 

"They are the only unbeaten team in Europe this year, they won all six pool games, they looked very ruthless and efficient against Munster and Glasgow so we are well aware we are going to have to raise our game.”

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