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Dublin: 21 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019

'Booster weeks' leave Munster turnover threat O'Mahony fresh

The southern province’s captain is enjoying working with Tadhg Beirne this season.

IT SURELY PAINED Peter O’Mahony to be limited to running the water as his Munster team battled with Leinster in Thomond Park two weekends ago.

With tempers flaring and Leinster dishing out several illegal shots, it looked like the kind of game in which O’Mahony would have been firmly at home.

He did offer a few words of advice to referee Frank Murphy, his competitive spirit clear even as he wore a bib.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony is feeling fresh after his break. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Munster captain was rested for the weekend, as well as the one before when he missed his side’s defeat to Ulster in Belfast.

The IRFU’s player management programme is sometimes bemoaned, but O’Mahony looked wholly re-invigorated last Saturday as he made his return against Connacht in impressive fashion.

There were lineout steals, turnovers at the breakdown and his usual energy at the attacking ruck, as well as five carries and six tackles in his 64-minute outing.

There was even a try out in the 15-metre channel for the blindside flanker, who doesn’t tend to score too many of them. 

“It’s rare enough, rare enough,” says O’Mahony with a smile. “Another 12 to 14 years again!”

But the 29-year-old felt the benefit of two weekends without a game, going as far as admitting to being “happyish” with his performance at the Sportsground. 

With a huge Heineken Cup clash against Gloucester to come on Friday night in Kingsholm, O’Mahony is grateful to have had what he terms “a couple of booster weeks”.

“It’s no secret that we are well managed from the IRFU side of things,” says O’Mahony.

“The S&C [strength and conditioning] group and management were keen to get me a bit of a rest and to get a good clatter of gym stuff and a S&C booster week on top of a bit of a rest week as well.

Peter O'Mahony The Cork man returned last weekend against Connacht. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Sometimes it’s hard when you’re a player, you obviously want to play rugby and certainly for me I get a benefit out of consistency in games and that kind of thing, but you trust the backroom guys and the S&C group here, how well looked after we are and their thought process of picking these weeks to get a bit of work done and stay fresh for what will, hopefully, be a long season.

“You’re playing big games consistently, so mentally you’re on a lot of the time. It’s a stressful enough environment and it’s nice to get a few days away and chill out and get some good work done as well.”

While O’Mahony got a bang on the hip against Connacht, he says it’s “nothing too major” and is expecting to be fit to face Gloucester this weekend.

His turnover threat will be vital again, in tandem with fellow breakdown pests Tadhg Beirne and Chris Cloete, who is expected to be back from a neck issue.

Such is the ability of Munster’s pack at the defensive breakdown, it could potentially have been a case of too many cooks. But Johann van Graan’s men have found a fine balance, with O’Mahony, Beirne and Cloete giving each other room to do their best work.

“There’s not really a system, but you have to make good decisions – you can’t have two or three guys going after a ruck, particularly against the quality of teams we’re coming up against at the moment,” explains O’Mahony.

“When those two lads are there, I don’t have to do a huge amount, to be honest with you. I just keep an eye on things because they are two of the best in the game, to be fair.

“There’s not a system, making good decisions is the most important thing really.”

Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Beirne O'Mahony and Beirne are major turnover specialists. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

While working in tandem with O’Mahony around the breakdown, Beirne has also settled into the role of lineout caller with Munster in recent months.

The former Scarlets lock will be crucial again on Friday as Munster look to secure an important win to remain top of Pool 2.

“It wouldn’t be difficult for someone like him to fit in anywhere,” says O’Mahony of Beirne. “He’s a very able footballer, he has some great rugby in him, a great rugby brain and is a very hard worker.

“He obviously has an incredible body because the positions he gets himself into look incredibly awkward and I don’t know how he stays in there at times, but he’s very impressive, the manner in which he goes around here and gets his work done, even his gym stuff, very impressive. He keeps his head down.

“He is new to the calling side of things as well, I thought he has been very impressive in that area as well.

“He hadn’t done a huge amount of it until he came here and he has put his head down. Himself and Holl [Billy Holland], they get an incredible amount of work done in our attack lineout and our defensive lineout as well and he has been very impressive since he has arrived.”

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Murray Kinsella

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