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Dublin: 0°C Monday 1 March 2021

Semi-final lessons must kick in for Munster to lift silverware -- O'Mahony

The Munster captain is sick of learning lessons at the business end of the season.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

THE NEW RUGBY season is just around the corner and the countdown for Munster reads 10 days before their opening August friendly.

Before they march forward on a new campaign however, Peter O’Mahony is keen to borrow the wisdom of George Santayana: those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

The closing weeks of last season certainly came with a touch of gloom as the southern province tasted the all too familiar sting of semi-final defeat. In Europe, it was the sixth time in six final four appearances since 2009. In the Pro14/Pro12, they have lost three semi-finals and two finals since winning the Magners League in 2011.

After a bad day in Bordeaux in April, O’Mahony said he was ‘tired of learning lessons’ and he admits last week’s training camp in Fota Island was a chance for the squad to take a refresher course to ensure this is the year Munster make the grade again.

“We know we’re not that far off,” says the Corkman, fresh again after his season (and a successful tour in Australia) was ended 50 minutes early by an aerial clash with Israel Folau and subsequent HIA assessment.

Israel Folau and Peter O'Mahony contest a restart Source: Photosport/Stuart Walmsley/INPHO

“The problem is that you’re not automatically back in the semi-final this year; we’ve a huge amount of big games to go now before you start talking about that. But they’re experiences you have to talk about and learn from and get the learnings out of to kick on.

“It seems like we’ve done it a couple of times on the bounce now and guys have got to understand that those learnings have got to sink in if we want to kick on, you know, a couple (of steps) further.”

I think this is probably the week when we’re all going to sit down and chat through all that kind of stuff and get us all to speak honestly and chat about what we think we need to do.”

While restarting their quest again from square one could easily be viewed as a daunting task, after two years of unprecedented, tragic and then unavoidable turmoil the presence of a head coach in Johann van Graan who will hold the reins from start to finish should be a major positive around Thomond Park.

Though Simon Zebo’s departure will be keenly felt, there is star power coming through the doors with Tadhg Beirne, Arno Botha Joey Carbery and Mike Haley.

“There’ll be no one filling the void with that fella,” says O’Mahony with a wry smile when Zebo’s name is mentioned.

“He’s a one off character to be fair. I don’t think anyone will try to fill his boots either, they’d be big ones to fill.

“We’ve signed Mike (Haley) who is considerably better looking than him and obviously a serious rugby player as well.”

O’Mahony’s tongue remains in his cheek when the subject of Beirne’s positional flexibility pops up. Last year’s European player of the year nominee can be a destructive all-action presence at blindside, but nudging him out of the second row would require O’Mahony or CJ Stander to be re-purposed as an openside.

So, Beirne’s definitely a lock?

“Certainly. Absolutely!”

CJ Stander, Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander were pictured at the launch of Munster's alternate and European jersey, join the conversation and follow @lifestylesportsrugby and #LIVEMUNSTER. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Back into his game face, O’Mahony adds:

“He’s been one of the in-form players in European rugby over the last couple of seasons, he’s come from Leinster, got his opportunity with Scarlets and he’s been one of the best.

“His line-out ability, ball-carrying ability, you saw him step Anthony Watson under the posts against Bath last season – he’s obviously a quality footballer and for us to sign somebody of that calibre is a super signing for us.

“He’s an incredible signing for us, his work-rate and his ability to get over the ball is probably second-to-none in the world. He’s probably the best in the world on the poach.”

A little turnover ball could make all the difference when Munster return to those final few hurdles.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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