Jack O'Donoghue grapples with Northampton. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

'My mum wasn't too happy with me! She said to cop on'

Jack O’Donoghue has been pleased with Munster’s improved form in recent months.

WHEN IT ALL kicked off at Franklin’s Garden last month, with Munster and Northampton players piling in, you could have picked out a few possible yellow cards.

The bout of handbags had started with Jack O’Donoghue pinned on the ground by two Saints, with one of their forearms pressed into the Munster man’s neck in a distinctly unsaintly manner.

O’Donoghue hadn’t appeared to really do all that much but referee Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy decided that he and Northampton’s Lewis Ludlam had been the instigators of the kerfuffle and off they went to the sin-bin.

“Yeah, look, my mum wasn’t too happy with me!” said O’Donoghue with a smile this week as Munster get set for the return game against the Saints at Thomond Park tomorrow.

“But it wasn’t something I went out of my way to look for or anything like that.

“After that, I just tried to get on with my job because I knew not to let my team-mates down, should something happen to me.

“Yeah, I was annoyed with myself that I got sin-binned because I put my team on the back foot for 10 minutes so I took that on the chin, but it’s not something I would like to encourage in young lads going forward.”

And what was it O’Donoghue’s mother said to him?

“Listen, cop on!”

To be fair, Munster have been working on their composure in incidents like that one over at Franklin’s Gardens. Even if they will always stand their ground, Graham Rowntree’s side are keen not to get distracted by off-the-ball stuff.

“That’s something that I think we’ve worked on in the past,” said O’Donoghue.

“I go back to Saracens over there and there was a scuffle like that and that’s a big turning point in a game where you can either get sidetracked and go after the fella who started it or you can be like, ‘Right, what’s my next job’.

“And you have to be able to stay composed and to come back to the present. You can’t let your head go to where it sometimes wants to go where that red mist comes over you.

jack-odonoghue-celebrates-after-the-game O'Donoghue and Munster face Saints again tomorrow. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

“I think we did extremely well, we all got pulled into a huddle and took a deep breath, and we spoke about what the next job is. That was able to focus everyone’s mind on the next task, that we were able to then control what we could control, I think it was going back to a scrum and we were ready for it.”

Whatever about the push-and-shove, Munster believe they’re in a good place with their game when the ball is in play. 

After a difficult start to the season, Rowntree’s men have started delivering better performances and better results. They have been training much faster than was the case before, with O’Donoghue explaining how it took time to adapt to those new demands.

“It was tough to get used to,” he said. “We were kind of used to… not that we were training slow or anything, but we used to have little mini-chats or mini-huddles in each block, where now we’re trying to adapt and to problem-solve on the move, on the run, being able to have little conversations with nine or 10 before you get set for the next play, and it’s very much what you feel like out on the pitch, you can’t just all of a sudden pull our whole group in.

“I know when there’s an injury you do have those times, but you have to be able to adapt to how the game is unfolding live as opposed to waiting for a break in play and I think it’s incredibly beneficial to us and we’re starting to see the rewards of that now.

“It took a bit of time to get used to but certainly for me personally, I feel fitter, I feel quicker and that’s down to the way I’m training and being able to relate that into game situations.”

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