Peter O'Mahony's bloody-minded performance is everything Ireland attest to be
How was Peter O'Mahony able to carry his spent body off the field, on his own two legs, is beyond me.
56 minutes into Ireland's all-out slugfest with New Zealand and Peter O'Mahony was getting treatment for the second time. Shoulder first half, hamstring in the second.
He had looked in a bad way for much of Ireland's 28-17 victory over Argentina - a game in which he awarded him man-of-the-match - but he kept showing up and making big plays. On Saturday at the Aviva Stadium - one week on from that performance - O'Mahony ratcheted it up a level.
Ireland had an attacking lineout after Rob Kearney had dragged Beauden Barrett out for an attacking, five-metre lineout. O'Mahony would be needed to help claim that and help drive a maul. After that, he was done. He was surely done.
10 minutes later and he was still out there and still making a difference.
Jacob Stockdale's try will be long remembered and replayed - and rightly so - but the likes of Josh van der Flier, Tadhg Furlong and Peter O'Mahony all played huge parts in the 16-9 triumph against the world champions. James Ryan was immense and Devin Toner too. Iain Henderson came off the bench like a buck possessed.
O'Mahony was the lightning rod and destructive presence all rolled into one.
Having missed out on Chicago (2016), lost the Lions captaincy after Eden Park and then missed the victory in Wellington the following weekend, the Munster captain still had not beaten New Zealand. There was no way in white-hot hell he was losing tonight.
CJ Stander, Furlong and Devin Toner roused the crowd in the first half but it as the game was truly in the melting pot - those 20 to 25 minutes after the break - O'Mahony came to the fore.
He made a big turnover in the first half but dipped in to steal New Zealand ball as they laid siege in the Irish half and surged up to the 22. The home crowd howled in delight but better was to come.
With Ireland short on numbers and O'Mahony now clearly playing with one shoulder hanging together and his hamstring screaming out for mercy, Beauden Barrett put in a grubber kick that had Ireland in a bundle of trouble.
Somehow, held together by sheer bloody-mindedness, O'Mahony turned on a dime, ran back and plucked two paws around the ball just as Ben Smith was about to nab and score in the corner.
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) November 17, 2018
Ireland survived and - for a THIRD time - the Corkman was down getting treated.
This was the end. After 66 minutes it was the end, but he had given his team all he could. More importantly, he had left them 16-9 ahead and in with a great chance of victory.
The standing ovation he received as he headed off only tells half the story.
Standing ovation for Peter O'Mahony 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/5ZIGncKpoD
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) November 17, 2018
Post-match and all the talk - from Joe Schmidt, Luke McGrath, Rory Best and Josh van der Flier - was about that man O'Mahony.
He used up a cat life tonight. You can't give that sort of stuff every week. You'd be in a box, and long lamented, within a season if you did. He gets damn close most weeks he tugs on the jersey but this was something deeper and beyond that again.
At the final whistle, he jumped to celebrate only for his aching body to remind him he was in tatters.
— Alan Guerin (@alang0486) November 17, 2018
Chicago and Wellington are in the past now. Peter O'Mahony will always have tonight in Dublin, and what a night it was.