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19th Mar 2024

“I didn’t want to say it like that!” – Farrell jumps in after Peter O’Mahony gets unwanted reminder

Patrick McCarry

Peter O'Mahony

“That’s a shit stat!”

Two weeks before his 21st birthday, Peter O’Mahony captained Munster for the first time. Two years later, he got the gig, full-time.

A few years back, we caught up with O’Mahony and got his recollections on what it meant to be entrusted with that Munster captaincy at such an early age. He had captained his Cork Constitution club side and at age grade levels, but this was, in his words, a different beast.

“Strings would have had 80 caps for Ireland, by then, maybe more,” he said. “Marcus Horan, something similar. But it probably said to me what they thought of me. But, again, that comes back to putting pressure on yourself then. If they think that of me and they’re giving me that responsibility, they probably expect something in return, which is a performance.

“You know, that’s the pressure you put on yourself, and then more and more pressure builds. You know, I’ve got these guys around me and these guys have played and won European Cups. They’ve won Six Nations. They’ve captained Lions teams, these guys expect me to be one of the best today – d’ya know what I mean – if they’re putting me in this position, and that brings out the best in you, I think. And they were good times as well.”

O’Mahony also spoke of the younger generations of players that were coming through, even at Munster, that were used to seeing Leinster win a rake of trophies and Ireland capturing Grand Slams.

@sportsjoedotie We talked previously to Peter O’Mahony on being a captain, a glimpse on what could be on the horizon for Ireland ☘️🙌 #Ireland #peteromahony #munster #irishrugby ♬ original sound – SportsJOE

Andy Farrell cuts in after Peter O’Mahony reminder

The captaincy of Munster passed over to Peter O’Mahony in July 2013. Over the years, he brought Munster to league finals and European Cup semi-finals but no silverware was forthcoming.

That all changed, last season, when Munster went to Cape Town, beat a fancied Stormers side and returned home with the United Rugby Championship. This year, after being named Ireland captain, O’Mahony led Ireland through a Six Nations campaign that saw then retain their title and go agonisingly close to claiming back-to-back Grand Slams.

In the press briefing that followed Ireland’s 17-13 victory over Scotland, last Saturday, rugby reporter Derek Foley brought up that long wait for O’Mahony to truly taste success (married with silverware) as a captain. The exchange between him, O’Mahony and Andy Farrell was a classic:

FOLEY: Peter, you hadn’t won anything as a captain for 15 years, in senior rugby. Now you’ve won twice in 10 months (URC and 6 Nations). Does it get any better than this? Did you know rugby could be this good?

O’MAHONY: Em, no, it’s great (starts laughing)

FARRELL: That’s a shit stat, by the way!

FOLEY: You didn’t know that?

FARRELL: Yeah, I did, but I didn’t want to say it like that!

FOLEY: But just tell us, is this as good as it gets? This 10 months has been fantastic, and could you tell us what the lowest point has been, in those 15 years, that you’ve bounced back from?

O’MAHONY: It’s certainly hard to beat. There have been days that you wouldn’t dare dream of, like today and lifting a trophy. I’ve been through enough losses to pick one – semi finals with Munster. Going back to games we learned a lot from. We had a championship on the line (in 2020), going away to France in the last game. I think that game has stood to us for a long, long time. It hurt more than ever but we learned a lot from it, massively. That stands out.

That question drew a fine response from both men, and a fascinating insight into the moment that transformed Ireland under Andy Farrell.

That match Peter O’Mahony was referring to was at Stade de France on Halloween night, October 2020. Ireland stayed in the fight until France busted loose in the second half. The final score was 35-27 to Les Bleus with a late Jacob Stockdale try making the title decider seem closer than it actually was.

From the team that started that night, only five were in the starting XV from the recent win over Scotland. O’Mahony, himself, was only on the bench and replaced Will Connors with 25 minutes to play.


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