And still, some way, somehow, people continue to doubt this man 1 year ago

And still, some way, somehow, people continue to doubt this man

The 50:22 kick got the love, but it was merely the cherry on top.

Whether it is getting selected in Ireland XVs, being named on the Ireland bench, being included in a touring Ireland squad or getting a fresh IRFU contract, it rarely takes long for the Peter O'Mahony doubters to start cawing.


The Munster captain is 32 now, but has been the focus of serious cribbing for about five years, at this stage. Maybe it is because he always seemed to have an old head on young shoulders. He seems to have that 'veteran' feel about him ever since he was 24.

Heading to New Zealand, many Irish rugby supporters would have preferred Andy Farrell to give some of the fresher faces, and bodies, starts in the Test series. Farrell went the opposite way, and appeared to have his Test XV picked before the two flights that took them from Dublin to Auckland.

The clearest option, for those that either wanted O'Mahony out of the starting XV or entire match-day squad, was to go all Leinster - Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan at 6, 7, 8. There was also the option of going Doris at blindside and Gavin Coombes at 8. Others called for Nick Timoney or Cian Prendergast to be given a chance.

At Eden Park, Andy Farrell started O'Mahony and he was one of a handful [no more than that] of Irish players that emerged with any credit from a 42-19 defeat. The Cork Con clubman and Josh van der Flier were the pick of the forwards but, still, there were calls to drop him for the Second Test.


Peter O'Mahony Ireland players, from left, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne face the 'Haka'. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

"Ireland never change anyone"

The main thrust of the argument to drop Peter O'Mahony came from fans, and the odd pundit, that called on Ireland to look ahead to next year's World Cup.


What could be learned, they asked, from constantly starting the likes of O'Mahony, Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls. Some even protested that the Munster veterans - and they can be fairly classed as that now - had only got IRFU central contracts as a pre-retirement bump.

After winning in Auckland, Ireland were pulled taut to have holes popped and punched.

"Ireland never change anyone," All Blacks legend John Kirwan remarked. "It's been the same football team for the last five years."

On Thursday, Andy Farrell named Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton in his starting team for the Second Test, in Dunedin. Earls was dropped, but only because first-choice winger Mack Hansen was available for selection.


Under Farrell, Ireland only had one big away win during his head coach reign - beating an England team in Twickenham that had been reduced to 14 men after only 89 seconds. He wanted these players - his Test favourites - to be really tested on the road. He knew how much a tour win would galvanise this set of men, heading into 2022/23 and a huge 15 months.

While the All Blacks often seem to have four live options for each position in their XV, sometimes Ireland have to show faith and stick with the guys they think care best served to get them victories. Every coach that ever had Peter O'Mahony recognises him as a player that will waste himself to get his side those tiniest of wins, all over the pitch.

On Saturday night in Dunedin, he proved yet another point. Some will never fully buy-in, but they must have appreciate how pugnacious, clever and effective he was.

Peter O'Mahony Finlay Bealham, left, and Peter O’Mahony of Ireland after their side's victory over New Zealand. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile)

The glorious 'funt' of Peter O'Mahony

You look at the statistical breakdown of Peter O'Mahony, from that Second Test, it is an encapsulation of the guy's career, with a flourish added during the Andy Farrell era.

O'Mahony had five carries for 19 metres, but passed the ball on another seven times [much more switches and inside passes, these days] and beat two defenders. In defence, he made 10 tackles and missed none. He won his side a crucial turnover and claimed four lineouts. He also had two offloads, which were rare enough sights when Joe Schmidt was in charge.

There was also the quick-thinking, and no little skill, behind his 'funt' [forward's punt] with the outside of his boot. This was the second kick-from-hand in successive games. The first almost got Earls in for a try. Today's was a 50:22 and gave Ireland an attacking lineout inside the New Zealand red-zone, with 14 minutes to go:

Try-saving interventions

Then we had the end-game. New Zealand needed to get a converted try with five or six minutes to go, to have any chance of a miraculous comeback. If it was any other team but the All Blacks, you would sit back and enjoy the final 10 minutes.

And yet we had three times in a short space when the Kiwis got over the tryline but were held up. Tadhg Beirne and Finlay Bealham came up big. Peter O'Mahony was in there twice, doing enough to deny the hosts and chew up more of the clock.

The performance from O'Mahony had it all. There was even the back-chat with Sam Cane & Co., and those big paws clapping in slow motion, on the big screen, as another turnover was secured.

[We'll forgive the spelling, above, in favour of the sentiment]

The Test Series is now in the balance, so Farrell is likely to make as few changes as he can. Garry Ringrose may be out of the mix, after his concussion, but Bundee Aki can slot right in.

After that game, we have another 14 months before the World Cup. The back-row will turn 33 in September and will be 34 by the time that World Cup starts.

At this stage, some will never be convinced that O'Mahony should be a guarantee to start for Ireland. Not at this stage, the doubters will say. He has had his time. Someone else should get a chance.

And yet O'Mahony goes about building up cases A-Z for the defence.

You can have your opinions. You certainly can. As long as Farrell has O'Mahony, though, he'll always be an option for those 6 or 7 jerseys.