With a season still to complete and a new campaign to follow straight after, a long road lies ahead for Ireland’s rugby players. Yet the first game back is the only one Peter O’Mahony is concerned about.
It is currently only week two of Munster’s return to training since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the resumption of matches in Ireland is still another seven weeks away but once 2019-20 competition re-starts with the Guinness PRO14 on August 22-23, it will spark a relentless schedule that Munster head coach Johann van Graan described earlier this week as a 15-month season through to the conclusion of the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in July and August 2021.
With the 19-20 PRO14 campaign set to be concluded over successive weekends from August 22 to September 12 and the 20-21 season getting underway on October 3 with an extended international window stretching across October and through all of November, Ireland flanker and Munster captain O’Mahony, 30, is expecting to have his hands full and will relish nothing less following what will be an enforced six-month stretch without game time.
Yet the opening fixture is the only one that matters to a fit and mentally refreshed athlete raring to go after so long out of action.
"Obviously from a coaches' point of view, there is planning to be done with regard to that (long season ahead),” O’Mahony said.
"You've heard me say this a lot but from a player's point of view it is very week by week for us. The only thing we have been given really is August 23 for Leinster in the Aviva. That's really our immediate goal outside of all your goals in pre-season. That's the next game for us and we are firmly focused on it."
Whatever the shape of the season ahead, the Munster skipper said he was confident he was in the best possible hands to see him through the lengthy campaign with country and province.
"I think we're lucky to have some of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the world looking after us in our provinces and Ireland. They do all of this study and homework to look after us in the best way possible and to get that workload, that training load gradually back into us to get us to be able to be robust enough to take contact again, to take a game situation again ultimately.
"I think we're in great hands to get us into that kind of condition. Again, we had a big bulk of stuff to do, to keep us tipping over. I know it was difficult for guys and some guys you couldn't obviously do as much or complete gym stuff as you'd want, not having access to gyms and some people didn't have access to pitches and that kind of thing but we made do with as best as could so we didn't completely stop and we had some excellent programmes to get through as well so we've been tipping away.”