Captain O’Mahony relishing prospect of return to action

It’s been 32 days since Peter O’Mahony last played a game of competitive rugby and over 50 will have passed by the time he gets to bridge that gap back to the oh-so-close Heineken Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne.

To put that into context, rugby’s off-season isn’t nearly as long, but the Munster man insists that appetite or preparedness will not be in question when Ireland come to take on the USA in Houston next Saturday week.

“It’s been tough,” he admitted yesterday at Carton House. “We haven’t been doing nothing. We had a couple of days off but we had a bit of a mini-pre-season and the Connacht and Munster guys have met up a couple of times in Limerick to do a bit of training.

“Obviously there is an appetite from us to get back out there, especially with the fact that there is an Irish jersey at stake and there is a chance there to grab a hold of, and you don’t need any more motivation than that to look forward to it.”

Maybe so, but O’Mahony was offered some anyway last weekend when Dylan Hartley talked his way out of the Lions tour, Rory Best was called in and the Ulster man’s nomination as interim Irish captain was passed on to the 23-year-old from Cork.

He spoke about how proud he, and his family, was to be honoured in such fashion but he insisted it would not change much beyond his attendance at some meetings, press conferences and the pre-match coin toss.

O’Mahony is one of those skippers who leads by example and his comfort with the role stretches back through a career that has always had leadership thrust up on him, right back to the first time as an 11-year old on a club tour in France.

“He has captained me at Cork Con, Pres [Presentation Brothers College, Cork], Munster and now Ireland,” said Simon Zebo who did a much better job of describing O’Mahony’s attributes as a leader on and off the pitch than the modest man himself.

“I just know him as a captain, even when he’s not. He has just got great leadership skills, doesn’t necessarily have to be done by talking. Pete’s just a fantastic leader on the pitch. Everyone is willing to follow him no matter what he does.”

O’Mahony’s first official business as skipper will come at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas where humidity can reach seriously discomfiting levels.

A 7.30pm kick-off will be most welcome but then O’Mahony has experienced similar four years ago when he faced Uruguay in an U20 World Cup tie in Nagoya when the temperature pitchside was 40C and the humidity nearly in triple digits.

Still, Houston’s climate will add to the scale of the task for a rusty and unfamiliar side that is operating under the interim control of Les Kiss although team manager Mick Kearney explained the reasoning behind the venue yesterday.

“Houston is the sports capital of the USA so they have a fairly aggressive sports authority out there. We went on a recce out there in December and they were very keen to get the game played there. The budget of the Houston Sports Authority is $80m (€93.5m) to attract events.

“So they’ve got golf, tennis, baseball, basketball and NFL for a city that’s not massively populated. It’s got a massive sporting structure and the stadium we’re playing at, which is the local soccer stadium, is gorgeous so we’ve got the venue and we’re pretty sure at this stage it’ll be a 22,000 sellout.”


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