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05th Oct 2023

Paul O’Connell recalls time he told Peter O’Mahony to go ‘full contact’ in training

Patrick McCarry

“If he’s selected!”

Paul O’Connell spoke superbly about Peter O’Mahony, in his Wednesday press briefing, but was keeping his old teammate sweating on selection.

O’Mahony will play his 100th Test game for Ireland, this weekend, when he lines out against Scotland at Stade de France. When O’Connell chatted with the media, though, that Ireland team had not been named, and O’Connell wore a broad grin that hid nothing. O’Mahony was always starting this one.

“It’s brilliant,” said O’Connell. “I’ve known Pete since he was 18 when he came into the Munster academy. He was always a leader and always wanted to figure things out.

“He was able to lead well and speak well and set an example. He’s had a great last few years in his career. He’s fit, understands the game more than ever and that allows him to play really well and be aligned with what the coaches want and what’s best for the team he plays in.

“He communicates really well with the group, he sets a lovely tone. Guys speak in different ways and he has a certain way of setting the tone. There’s never any BS [bullsh*t] about it. It’s always straight and to the point. From that point of view, he’s been great for us.

“He had a period a while back where he was on the bench and he was excellent as well. He prepared the starting group and the subs really well, despite being a starter for so long. I think that period was good for him and since he has got back in, he hasn’t let go. I’m delighted as a Munsterman to see him get to 100 caps, if he gets there this weekend. It’s a brilliant achievement and full credit to him.”

O’Connell was one of many senior Munster players, around 2009, that identified O’Mahony as a lad with buckets of potential. The Cork Con back-row, who captained Munster through the age grades, made his senior debut in January 2010.

It did not take O’Connell – now the Ireland forwards coach – long to confirm this was a potential dog for the hard road. In his book ‘The Battle’ he amusingly recalls the moments in training when he would inform O’Mahony it was time to go full contact.

Peter O'MahonyPaul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony celebrate Six Nations glory in 2015. (Credit: Sportsfile)

Paul O’Connell on Peter O’Mahony

It was clear, from early training sessions and matches, that Peter O’Mahony was a player and leader than Munster could lean on for a stretch of years.

O’Mahony captained Munster against Dragons when he was only 21, and O’Connell – paying a compliment here – knew the youngster had some mongrel in him. During ‘The Battle’, O’Connell described how he used to get the Cork native wound up for training runs he felt needed a jolt. He wrote:

‘There were times when I felt like I needed to rev things up.I remember, during a non-contact session, pulling Peter O’Mahony aside.

ME: The two of us will go full contact here now.

PETE: Are you serious?

ME: Yes.

‘I didn’t think he would take me quite so literally. He went straight out and spear-tackled Simon Zebo. After that, we had a really sharp session.’

Poor old Simon Zebo got the Brian O’Driscoll vs. the 2005 All Blacks treatment, with O’Mahony completely off the leash.

O’Mahony turned 34 in September and still retains that bit of bite about him – just ask Sam Cane. Against the Scots, on Saturday, expect more of the same.

HOUSE OF RUGBY WITH DARREN CAVE & IAN MADIGAN

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