O’Mahony, 24, shipped a bang to his head during Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 derby with Leinster at Thomond Park and was withdrawn from the fray at half-time as a precautionary measure on advice from Munster team doctor Tadhg O’Sullivan. The Ireland back rower still has to satisfy the IRB’s graduated return to play protocol, a series of cognitive and physical tests, before he is able to take the field in the Heineken Cup Pool 6 opener at Murrayfield on Saturday. Sitting out training yesterday was also part of the protocol but O’Mahony later fronted up at a Munster press conference in Limerick and spoke of his wellbeing as head coach Rob Penney underlined coaches’ duty of care to their players.
“I obviously took a knock,” O’Mahony said. “But you could see that on the (match) video that I answered all of my (cognitive) questions perfectly to the doc and I was still communicating with (referee) Romain (Poite), questioning his penalty (decision) and that was a good indication I was feeling all right.
“I felt good at half-time but Tadhg, to be fair, it was his call and he’d know that I wasn’t probably overly happy about it but that’s the way things go. I’ve a week to get myself right and I’m feeling good.”
O’Mahony added that he was content to have the decision on whether he plays or not taken out of his hands.
“I have to respect what the doctors and the physios are telling me. We’re lucky to have a great staff here and I know they have my welfare (at heart), it’s paramount, so I have to trust them and I know they’ll look after me.”
“Tadhg just said ‘look, the week that’s in it, that’s coming up, my gut feeling is that we just withdraw for the next 40 minutes and get you right for next week’.
“He made the call, I respect his call, that’s it.
“Logically it’s a different injury if you’re talking about a bruised ankle or a bruised elbow it’s different to your head. There’s a protocol (to be observed), there’s no (mandated) protocol with an ankle injury. If you can strap it up heavy enough you can get on with it whereas with a head injury you have to step back and take someone else’s advice into account.
“I wasn’t concussed, there was no issue with that. I didn’t drive home, Stephen Archer drove me home. I felt great. I had no headaches, no ill-effects, so it was happy days that way.”
Penney is tomorrow set to name his matchday squad for Saturday and he has no qualms about putting O’Mahony’s health ahead of team interests, a lesson he learned during his tenure as Canterbury head coach in New Zealand, when concussions for All Blacks Richie McCaw and Leon McDonald were a hot topic.
“Player welfare is paramount and where I’ve come from we’ve had a couple of very high-profile issues around the whole head injury thing,” Penney said. “There’s expert medical staff on the sidelines at each fixture and they’re going to make sure the welfare of the individual is taken care of first and foremost every time. I’d be very surprised if any medical person would compromise their own profession by not doing the right thing by the athlete.
“And from my personal experience, I treat all these kids as if I’m their father and I would hate to have the wrong decision made with any one of them about any injury.
“Doing things in the best interests of our young men is part of our responsibility as managers. We’re all acutely aware (of head injury issues) and I think every coach is well across the protocols and what needs to be done, not compromising young men. It just comes on the back of experience. We’ve probably gone through a century of sport where it was never a concern, just ignorance.
“If I saw my son get a concussion I’d be concerned if he was wheeled back out there. So if I treat the lads like that then I can sleep well at night.”
What is keeping Penney awake is team selection, with the head coach apparently spoilt for choice in a number of positions as he plots Edinburgh’s downfall.
“One thing you do is to try and create depth and give yourself a massive headache once you start to create it and that’s the position we’re getting ourselves into,” he said.
“There’s a lot of competition for spots. You could look through the loose forwards, you could look through the middle row, I mean we’ve got three world-class middle rowers vying for two spots. Three doesn’t go into two.
“We’ve talked about the front row situation, we’ve got people putting pressure on current internationals under pressure. The hookers, (Damian) Varley has come on leaps and bounds and Mike (Sherry) is going really well and our outside back contingent... it’s challenging. You just have to look at our B&I (Cup) side, the strength of that side going into the game at the weekend, the pressures are on selections which is a good place for the Munster organisation to be in.”