Peter O’Mahony steers Chicago heroics into rearview mirror

Six questions in, all of them a variation on the theme that was his absence from the Ireland squad for last weekend’s historic defeat of the All Blacks in Chicago, and Peter O’Mahony’s calm exterior cracks just a tad.

“I watched the game at home boys,” he explained. Again. “It’s done now. It was a fabulous occasion, a fabulous win. It was special to watch the boys play with so much detail, accuracy, passion, all balanced off. It was a fabulous day for Irish rugby but, as I say, we have to move on.

“I certainly have to move on and prepare myself. You can watch it as a fan. At that stage, you have done all you can to prepare the lads. There is nothing much I can do apart from being thrown out of the house for shouting and roaring.”

Such exasperation is understandable. Whatever his inner emotions, O’Mahony was prepared to say no more than the fact that “it simply wasn’t to be” for him last week. Sean O’Brien, another non-traveller, was slightly more open when admitting he didn’t fully agree with the same call.

If anything, O’Mahony had the greater case for inclusion. The Munster flanker has bagged more minutes and been more impressive on his return from long-term injury than O’Brien whose performance against Zebre last Saturday was something of a mixed bag.

“I’m getting there,” said the Cork man. “It’s an ongoing process, it’s something I still have to manage during the week but I’m feeling very good and I’m making progress all the time. I’m stepping up my training and stepping up my volumes. My strength work is coming on all the time.

“It is building all the time and it’s feeling very good at the moment.”

It’s not as if there was time to mope after being told he was staying put last week. O’Mahony put in 72 minutes in Munster’s trampling of Ospreys on Friday evening in Cork, serving as an experienced guiding hand to a callow team and one seeking to build on recent fine form.

The desire in Munster to build on Anthony Foley’s legacy continues to direct wind into their sails and the memory of the Killaloe man was invoked Stateside as well when the Ireland squad assumed the No 8 formation as they faced up to the haka.

For O’Mahony, it invoked a sense of pride as well as perspective.

“It does put things in perspective. Look, it had a big impact on everyone but it was special to see the way the guys reacted at the weekend with what they did before the game and what guys have done — and not just for Munster but the other provinces the last few weeks.

“And the performances they have put in. It has been very humbling to see and good to see that outside of your professional battles there is a huge amount of professional respect there between provinces and guys who come into this squad. It is a game at the end of the day.”

And one that Joe Schmidt and his squad had parked as of Monday evening when they clicked back into work mode. Not so Joe Public. The fact it is tier-two Canada coming to Lansdowne Road this weekend has prompted an elongated period of reflection.

“A win like that does wonders for confidence but it is something that we always pride ourselves on: that you have to move on. It’s almost ruthless. You’ve got to put a line in the sand and it’s professional rugby. It’s not like the amateur days when you could go 10 days on the beer after a win like that.”

O’Mahony’s eagerness to look forward rather than back is easy to break down. His last appearance in a green jersey was over a year ago when he did his knee in that final World Cup pool game against France. A Six Nations, a first win in South Africa and now Chicago have all since passed him by.

It’s no wonder then that the Canadians are enough of a carrot for now.

“You can’t take all this for granted and I don’t. It’s too special to take for granted. Just to play for your country, to represent Ireland. As I said at the weekend, it was such a proud day to be a representative of your country, to play for Ireland and it was especially proud last Saturday.

“I am always a proud Irishman and they are the days you want to be involved in. Whether you are beating the All Blacks or making your debut against Canada, or winning your 70th cap against them, they are all special in their own way. And certainly it is not something I take for granted.”


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