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05th Jan 2023

“He’d obviously fight with a pillowcase!” – Peter O’Mahony and what makes him such a vital player

Patrick McCarry

Peter O'Mahony

“I just think he’s going to be pivotal, to be honest, in this upcoming year.”

As much as others may write him off, over the past few years, or big-up the next young colt, Peter O’Mahony remains a key figure in the Irish set-up.

Back in 2012, he was young lad (aged 22) chomping at the bit. Stephen Ferris, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip were the back row combination – two Grand Slam mainstays and the 2011 European Player of the Year. It took him until November of that year to break that unit up and establish himself as a starter.

A bad knee injury in 2016 saw him drop down the pecking order and it was not until Jamie Heaslip’s back injury, in the 2017 Six Nations, that he got back into the mix. That day, thrown in late to start against England, he played so well that he locked down a British & Irish Lions spot. He would go on to captain the Lions in their First Test against New Zealand.

By 2020, Leinster had four back-row killers all ready and frothing for Test minutes – Jack Conan, Will Connors, Josh van der Flier and Will Connors. In 21 Test appearances since February of that year, the Munster captain – now on the wrong side of 30 – has started 13 and been a replacement in eight.

Notably, O’Mahony has started all six of his last Test outings. Andy Farrell is now using Jack Conan as his back-row cover for big games. As much as the chips are pushed in behind Johnny Sexton for the World Cup, there is a big stack on the 33-year-old. His performances against New Zealand, South Africa and Australia back up those bets.

On the latest House of Rugby [LISTEN from 27:25 below], Greg O’Shea, Lindsay O’Shea and Jason Hennessy covered the importance of Peter O’Mahony in this World Cup year. The man himself also reflected on what he feels he most brings to Munster and Ireland.

Peter O'MahonyPeter O’Mahony pictured at an Aviva event, last November. Aviva partnered with Foodcloud in 2022. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

Peter O’Mahony on what he brings to the party

As part of their 2023 preview, and predictions, the House of Rugby crew picked the three players they felt were crucial to Ireland’s continued success.

“I’m gonna be truthful,” said Lindsay Peat, “the first person that came to mind for me, was Peter O’Mahony.

“I actually think, with Ireland especially, he’s back playing, some of his best rugby! He’d obviously fight with a pillowcase, but he’s kind of doing that and not upsetting anyone around him. He’s picking his moments.

“I mean he’s absolutely fantastic at the breakdown… he’s just so central – scrum, lineout, tactically. He’s been in the captaincy role for Munster and Ireland, and I just think he’s going to be pivotal, to be honest, in this upcoming year, for Munster and Ireland.”

During an interview with House of Rugby, back in November, the Cork native was asked what he felt his most important contributions to a team were.

It is not unusual to leave a match raving about O’Mahony, only to see that his final statistics are not exactly what you would see from an Ardie Savea or Marcell Coetzee (two other class back-rows). O’Mahony told us:

“It’s no secret that lineout is, obviously, hugely important. Winning ball, attacking mauls… maul defence is very important to me.

“I’d have a good understanding of our defensive plan. For us, these days, you have to be all over most stuff. Andy [Farrell] has been big on getting us to understand our game and how we go about it. And I think that has unlocked things for me more – about going after you go after things, and understanding why a bit more.

“It’s a tough question to answer, to be honest with you. You’ve always got things that you try to implement as best you can, especially those things that you think are the reason you’ve been picked. Everyone has got that little niche or corner… everyone is picked for a reason. A lot of guys understand or know that reason why. You’ve got to realise, first and foremost, what you’re good at. We’ve all got things were we know we might not be quite as good as other guys, but we’ve all got a reason why we are there and that has to be the thing that comes out first. That’s what I always try to do.”

Lineout claims and disrupting the opposition throw. Winning ball for his side – restarts, rips or turnovers – and getting the mauls right.

You may not see many line breaks, stack of offloads – although he is capable of the odd pearler – and he only has three Test tries in 73 outings but Peter O’Mahony knows what he is good at. The rest – like getting under the opposition’s skin – well, that’s just the gravy.

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