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27th Dec 2022

Peter O’Mahony on “odd” dressing room reaction after Ireland beat New Zealand in the Second Test

Patrick McCarry

Peter O'Mahony

If anything sums up where this Ireland team are it, this is it.

As someone that had experienced, and bounced back from, the 3-0 Test Series loss to New Zealand in 2012, Peter O’Mahony had more than his fair share of scar tissue.

Still, he was expecting different scenes when he arrived back to the Ireland dressing room.

There is a lovely book-end provided by Paul O’Connell in the ‘Tackling the All Blacks’ documentary. The former Ireland captain speaks of the ropes and ladders that have been laid down at the tougher stretches of the Mt. Everest, put there by those that have already made the climb.

“People that are climbing Everest,” O’Connell explains, “there is a path for the others to follow. It is a whole lot easier for them than it was for the guys that did it first. That’s the challenge. There isn’t that many undiscovered territories for Irish rugby, and winning in New Zealand is something we hadn’t done before. It was a great opportunity for the boys to lay down a path, in terms of the pursuit of history.”

O’Connell, who is now forwards coach with Ireland, missed out on that 2012 tour to New Zealand after picking up an injury. Still, the Munster legend had nine cracks [seven in New Zealand, including three as a British & Irish Lion] to take down the All Blacks. For all his career high-points and achievements, he finished with an 0-9 record.

There was plenty of hurt and regret linked to those games – O’Connell was incredible on the 2006 tour and in the narrow 2013 loss, in Dublin – but no disgrace. Great players like Willie John McBride, Mike Gibson, Fergus Slattery, Keith Wood, Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara all retired having never felled the Kiwis while wearing that green jersey.

Peter O’Mahony started off 0-5 [with Ireland and the Lions] against New Zealand and missed out on the famous 2016 win against them, at Soldier Field. His first taste of victory arrived in 2018 as he delivered a man of the match performance at Lansdowne Road. Three years, and one crushing World Cup disappointment later, he repeated the dose at the same venue.

O’Mahony headed to New Zealand, last summer, part of an Ireland team that were looking to take the ABs down on their home patch. Ireland lost the First Test at Eden Park but turned the entire tour around with a memorable victory in Dunedin, seven days later.

O’Mahony, who was superb in that victory, has a stand-out moment in the documentary, in which he discusses the “odd” dressing room reaction after an Ireland triumph that tied the series at 1-1 with a game to play.

Peter O'MahonyKeith Earls and Peter O’Mahony share a moment after victory over New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Peter O’Mahony on dressing room reaction

In the Second Test, in Dunedin, Ireland went 10-0 ahead but failed to build on that great start after Angus Ta’avao was red-carded for the hosts, and two other yellow cards were shown.

Andy Farrell’s side only led 10-7 at the break but the second Andrew Porter try of the night, and two Johnny Sexton penalties, saw them survive a late barrage to win their first ever Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Peter O’Mahony was one of four Ireland players that rated 9/10 on that history-making night. The Munster back-row reflected on the post-match scenes in ‘Tackling the All Blacks’. He commented:

“We had won. We’d beaten the All Blacks for the first time on their soil. We came in to the dressing room and it was… I thought I’d be coming into a room with beer flying everywhere, and fellas chanting a roaring.

“We came in and it was a bit sedated. A bit quiet. I thought it was odd. It was a big one to tick off.”

The documentary footage backs up those O’Mahony comments. The scenes are more of exhaustion and sheer, satisfied relief. Players are patting each other on the leg, removing their strapping and sitting on beers.

“You’ve earned the right,” Andy Farrell tells them, “to be the first Irish team that has ever won in New Zealand, so be unbelievably proud of yourselves.”

Johnny Sexton, the Ireland captain, reveals that he admitted to his wife, Laura before he set off to New Zealand that he would take a solitary Test victory. Once that Test was won, and with the decider set up for Wellington, Sexton moved the goal-posts. He wanted that series win. So did O’Mahony, and everyone else in that Irish travelling party.

The following weekend, history was piled upon history as Ireland beat the All Blacks 32-22 to seal a Test Series triumph that will be long remembered.

Peter O'Mahony

The documentary ends with Paul O’Connell, who dove-tailed with Peter O’Mahony for five seasons at the end of his playing career, referring back to that Mt. Everest analogy and how the path has now been made for future Ireland players.

O’Mahony’s words, as he looked back on that series win, also resonate.

“Look, there was a lot of emotion at the end of it. You’ve won a Test Series against New Zealand, over there, for the first time ever as a professional team. It’s never been done before. It was a proud moment for me, and the whole group.”

Tackling The All Blacks will air on RTÉ One at 6.30pm on Thursday, December 29th.

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