'It was nice to be able to present her with my Grand Slam medal' - Peter O'Mahony 4 weeks ago

'It was nice to be able to present her with my Grand Slam medal' - Peter O'Mahony

Sitting in a cosy Dublin office with Peter O'Mahony, five weeks out from the World Cup, we take him back to a Baltic day in London, March 2018.

Ireland return to Twickenham, on Saturday, for the first time since they comprehensively beat 2017 champions England to clinch only their third Grand Slam. Peter O'Mahony gets the chills when he recalls that day, and it is the memories of the freezing London weather that does it.

Joe Schmidt's men clinched the Slam, and championship, and Triple Crown, less than a fortnight after Ireland and the UK thawed out after the worst of Storm Emma, and the freezing conditions that followed, had passed.

"It was great," O'Mahony recalls as he sits in the basement office not far from St Stephen's Green. "Look, we had some good momentum and we were playing well. But you need a little luck as well. We got a couple of bounces of the ball. A couple of our first-phase strikes came off well and that gives you a bit of momentum, and a bit of a gap in the score.

"Going back to Wales in the last Six Nations, when you do get that bit of a lead, it's hard for teams to pull that back, a bit. You have to get away from your game-plan a bit, which means you are probably opening yourself up defensively. You know, you might be trying to play out of your half and defences are so good that it's difficult.

"So yeah, we got a bit lucky but we did play well, and it was certainly a nice feeling afterwards. It was a nice feeling during it, too. It was one of those games that wasn't nail-biting so it was nice to be able to enjoy it. They are the days you want to recreate, and do special things."

O'Mahony made his Ireland debut in 2013 and won his first two Six Nations titles with them in 2014 and 2015. A bad knee injury, sustained in the 2015 World Cup, saw him miss out on a year of Test rugby and he was down the pecking order for the 2017 Six Nations.

Jamie Heaslip's back injury, sustained minutes before Ireland took on England in the 2017 Six Nations finalé, saw the Munster back-row drafted into the starting XV. He won man-of-the-match in that Ireland win and, off the back of that, made the British & Irish Lions squad, going on to captain the tourists in the First Test against the All Blacks.

He was a firm fixture in Ireland's 2018 Six Nations back row, a unit that coped manfully to losing Sean O'Brien before the championship and Josh van der Flier only 27 minutes into the opener. The 2018 Grand Slam medal was hard-fought for and well deserved, and yet it lasted only an hour in O'Mahony's possession.

In a lengthy interview with Baz & Andrew's House of Rugby, O'Mahony explained why he gave his medal away to Ireland fan Jennifer Malone. The M&S ambassador commented:

"You touched on how cold it was that day. She hung around afterwards. One of the backroom staff came into us and said Jennifer was still around, so a few of us headed out. There were loads of guys and there were photos of them with her going about afterwards.

"I brought the trophy out and told her to mind it for us, and she was delighted with herself. We would have been inside [the ground] for 45, 50 minutes and she hung around. She did that for all the games we had; she hung around for that amount of time.

"And she would have done that in November, too, and in January when we're out in Carton House and it's cold, she's there for most of our sessions as well. That means a lot to us as well and it was nice [in giving her the medal] to be able to present her with something small."

Peter O'Mahony poses for a selfie with Jennifer Malone before a Munster game at the Aviva Stadium. (Credit: Sportsfile)

It was a touch of class from O'Mahony and his teammates and one that recognised the lengths Jennifer goes to to support Ireland. Sports mad, Jennifer Malone loves GAA too and was poignantly pictured consoling beaten Waterford hurler Pauric Mahony in 2017. Rugby is a real passion, too, and she has also been at House of Rugby's live shows in Dublin and Belfast.

Asked if he would consider handing away a World Cup medal - of any colour - should Ireland surpass their best ever finishes at the tournament, O'Mahony straightens in his seat. "Oh, I haven't even given that a single thought."

How about travel plans. Are family and friends heading over to Japan?

"It's wait and see, selection-wise," he responds. "We'll hang off from booking anything until we see how selection goes."

Back to business, and playing the straight bat.

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The latest episodes sees Barry Murphy, Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery looking ahead to Ireland's World Cup warm-up match with England.

Peter O'Mahony has been announced as the new M&S ambassador. (Credit: INPHO)