European qualification for Munster may now be the longest of shots but that will not stop Ronan O’Mahony from striving to make his mark on Sunday’s Champions Cup clash with Treviso.
The 26-year-old wing is busy playing catch-up after missing the start of his first season on a full contract with a groin injury. Despite the province’s struggles, he is making the most of his opportunity to break into the Munster back three.
Garryowen back O’Mahony moved from a development deal to a senior contract at the beginning of the campaign but his injury prevented him from getting his seasonal debut until the end of October.
The short-term signing of Argentina back three international Lucas Amorosino to compensate for the premature retirement of Felix Jones failed to clear the selection waters for O’Mahony but three successive starts have eased the pressure and he is hoping for a further boost this weekend when Munster close out their Pool 4 schedule in Italy.
And with seven Munster front-liners due to join Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations camp on Monday, the onus is on those left behind to push on in the Guinness Pro12 in their absence, making the next six or seven weeks an important phase of the season for O’Mahony.
“I was out for four or five months and that’s obviously out of my control and it was a bit longer than I expected but the coaches told me get back playing rugby and stay fit and you’ll get your chance,” he said.
“The chance has come so you want to grab them with two hands when you are there and there is no better stage than Europe. Treviso is another big step and then we have Zebre (in the league) after that. I think we have a week off and then Cardiff for that rescheduled game so there is a run of games especially with the Six Nations coming up, there will be a number of lads in and out of the squad and there could be opportunities for a lot of lads to get in.”
Munster have been through the wringer of late, a record-equalling five-game losing streak piling on the pressure, only temporarily relieved by a rare victory at Ulster on January 2 before hitting rock bottom in Paris with that 27-7 European loss to 14-man Stade Francais.
The rebound win against the French champions in Limerick last Saturday has seen the confidence soar once more, though and O’Mahony sees this week’s game on the road as a tough but excellent opportunity to build momentum before the resumption of the battle for a Pro12 play-off spot in May.
“If you go back two weeks ago, when we put in a good performance against Ulster and a lot of people might have wrote us off. Just the feeling after it, knowing that we had done our coaches proud, our families proud and then the fans as well. And then we rock up to Stade the following week and we do the complete opposite.
“That inconsistency we are trying to get out of our game, again last week in Thomond Park. We put in a fairly decent performance, obviously there are a lot of things to work on, but we want to just get that consistency this week going into Treviso.
“Treviso are no pushover either, they play a great off-loading game, great continuity, they have a very strong set-piece. Teams have struggled with them over there, especially in Italy. I think this time last year against Ospreys, I think they did a job on Ospreys in (Champions Cup) Round 6 (winning 23-20 at Stadio di Monigo).”
O’Mahony will also be looking to make amends for the yellow card he received from referee JP Doyle against Stade at Thomond Park last week when he collided with an airborne Hugo Bonneval.
Munster managed to hold the fort and not concede any points in his absence and head coach Anthony Foley was annoyed by the inconsistency of refereeing, given full-back Andrew Conway’s lack of protection in similar circumstances in previous games, while O’Mahony is looking for some personal consistency this weekend after an otherwise encouraging performance.
“I was pretty pleased. Obviously the yellow card wasn’t on the agenda,” he said, “Just a timing thing. You wouldn’t ease off or anything. You’d go hell for leather, it was just a timing thing trying to get up in the air. Just misread it with my eyes on the ball and he got over me and obviously it didn’t look great. I was pretty pleased other than that. I am just trying to get consistent performance individually and as a team going into Treviso is going to be huge.”
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