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'That game will be important to me when I retire. That'll be one you remember'

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony is keen for his team to kick on against Castres.

Peter O'Mahony celebrates a Munster try.
Peter O'Mahony celebrates a Munster try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LOOKING AROUND THE changing room in Coventry before kick-off on Sunday, Peter O’Mahony was still getting his head around the situation Munster found themselves in, with 12 players about to make their senior debuts in the Champions Cup clash against Wasps.

The Munster team doctor burst in and began checking that all of the young guns were actually older than 18 in order to comply with whatever rule or regulation that had suddenly occurred to him.

There was indeed one 18-year-old in the wider travelling Munster group, while two 19-year-olds – Daniel Okeke and Patrick Campbell – would soon be impressing out on the pitch.

“The doctor was running around… I was getting strapped and I was going, ‘What is going on here?’ right up until before kick-off,” said O’Mahony after his team’s 35-14 win.

“Things like that are going to stand out to me forever. That game will be important to me when I retire. That will be one you remember for a long time.”

It was striking just how much pleasure O’Mahony took from Sunday’s success and it was patently obvious over the past week just how much he enjoyed every part of the build-up.

There are plenty of people out there who will write Munster’s win off as a rather inconsequential outing but the players themselves felt it was something special. 

Wasps were missing 18 players due to injury and then had a late handful of Covid-enforced withdrawals, so they were well short of their best team. A first-half red card for Wasps skipper Brad Shields helped the visitors hugely too, while they just seemed to get every bounce of the ball.

All of that said, Munster were missing 34 players and their entire senior coaching staff so the win should be respected. As importantly, the sense of occasion, the proud build-up around the province, and the brilliant travelling support should not be underestimated.

Now Munster need to build on it. Castres visit Thomond Park on Saturday after narrowly losing to Harlequins in France last weekend, so Munster will be eyeing a second win in two European pool games.

“This will give the club a great lift, it will give the province a great lift, and short-term it will give us an incredible amount of confidence,” said O’Mahony as he praised the academy players and others from the Munster pathway who helped to prepare the team so well. 

peter-omahony-celebrates-after-the-game O'Mahony salutes the Munster fans. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We have a big game in Thomond Park and we will have guys coming back who will be hungry and haven’t played in a while. Everyone will get a good buzz out of it but we’ve got to kick on from it.”

It will be intriguing to see how Munster’s team selection goes this week after their five fresh-faced starters showed promise, but with several of their senior players to return after completing self-isolation last weekend. 

O’Mahony will almost certainly be captaining the side again and will hope for a few more big moments like his try-saving tackle on Thomas Young in the second minute on Sunday.

“I spent a bit of time in the backfield tonight and it’s a tough job, I’ll tell you that much for nothing, I wouldn’t envy them,” said O’Mahony. “They cover a lot of ground and there’s a lot of pressure on them.

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“I made a couple of mistakes there but you’ve just got to dig in. We made a defensive error and he was quick but sometimes you’ve got to find it from somewhere and get back and give us a chance to exit.

“It wouldn’t have been a great start for us but these things happen.”

Last weekend’s outcome should help Munster to sell more tickets for this Saturday’s meeting with Castres.

It’s always loud at Thomond Park on European nights, while O’Mahony loved the travelling support in Coventry.

“There was supporters on our flight, there were supporters who came over today. Given the current climate of travel, it’s difficult and it’s probably expensive to do, more than it would have been.

“To look around there afterwards, we would have picked up some local support but the travelling support that we get is absolutely incredible. They always seem to shock us with the numbers they turn up in. It was great we could give them something to shout about given the circumstances.

“We got stuck in, they got behind us and it really meant a huge amount to us.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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