A fit and refreshed Peter O’Mahony is hoping rugby’s Covid-enforced shutdown can pay dividends by helping to extend his playing career.
By the time the Ireland flanker leads Munster back out into action at the Aviva Stadium on the weekend of August 22-23, O’Mahony, 30, will have spent six months sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic which began to sweep through Ireland in early March.
It is the equivalent of a long-term injury but with no rehabilitation to undergo since his last game for Ireland against England at Twickenham on February 23. O’Mahony has taken only positives from the mandatory downtime and that includes reaping the benefits further down the line.
"I think it came at a good time for me,” he said on Wednesday during a video conference to launch GreenAware’s #DoBitsHelpLots campaign.
“You hear about players taking sabbaticals and that kind of thing. Now I know it was everyone but, from my point of view, thankfully I hadn't had any real even short-term injuries. They were just very short ones here and there but I'd played rugby, nearly every game, since returning from my (knee) injury in 2015 so it was probably good timing from my body's point of view. I might get a bit of time back at the other end so that's certainly a positive I'm going to take from it.”
Asked if he meant extending his playing career, O’Mahony said: "Yeah, look, I think it can't do any harm. That's the reason why you had seen guys in New Zealand take six to eight months out of the game.
“I know we didn't have that long but it won't be that far off by the time we get back playing. I think it will stand to me. I think it was really, really good timing in regard to I suppose injury-prevention and just getting a rest, getting hungrier for the game.
I'd played a huge amount of games in the space of four or five years and it was taking its toll certainly. I feel good, I feel really hungry to get back into it. It was a great mental refreshment as well as a physical one so I think there are a lot of positives to take out of it and it will certainly give me longevity and, hopefully, something back at the end of my career.
Munster have been back in training at their High Performance Centre in Limerick for just two weeks and are taking a carefully measured approach to the early training weeks after almost four months in lockdown. With a first game back in the Guinness PRO14, most likely against Leinster in Dublin, not until August 22-23, O’Mahony agreed that the hunger he spoke of could mean a battle with impatience over the next eight weeks.
"Yeah, you're very right. We knew what we were expecting coming in last Monday week. There are obviously a lot of protocols we need to adhere to and that kind of thing. At the same time you're 12 and 13 weeks out of rugby and you want to get back in and hit the ground running and prove yourself.
“Obviously the competitive animal in everyone comes back out as soon as you're back in the group of six (players) I think it was last week and 12 this week. Even things like speed drills, you're trying to win them straight away.
“Look, to be fair they're monitoring us after a break like that which no professional player has ever had since they started playing professional rugby.
“I suppose you need to have the reins pulled in a little bit. You can't come back in and have 10 or 12 soft-tissue injuries in the first week so I think we've been managed quite well and certainly there is an eagerness to come back so it's coming back slowly with all the protocols that we need to adhere to. It's definitely different.”