Peter O'Mahony willing to be patient to return to peak of his powers

‘Speaking to a lot of fellas about the ACL, it can take two years to feel normal again’.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MUNSTER CAPTAIN PETER O’Mahony is delighted to be involved in the latest instalment of the rivalry with Leinster (Saturday, 14.05). However, after almost a full year out, he’s not promising to pick up exactly where he left off.

Not yet.

O’Mahony set the tone in Ireland’s ferocious Rugby World Cup pool decider against France in Cardiff last year,  helping his country avoid a meeting with the All Blacks in the quarter-final.

In the process though, the Corkman ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the second half of the victory. Looking back today, he can see some gallows humour in the moment when he found out his World Cup was over. The bad news coming from the mouth of none other than Jonathan Sexton.

“The docs reviewed me down in the Millennium Stadium afterwards and they thought my ACL was OK,” O’Mahony explains.

“I went for a scan, came out, Johnny was going for a scan at the time too. And (in the meantime) they had obviously got the report that my ACL was gone. But I’d been told it was my lateral and ‘hopefully I could play without my lateral for a few weeks’.

“So I was positive, but when he came out Johnny didn’t look too happy: ‘sorry, kid. Your ACL is gone.’

“The doc had gone, so (Johnny) was the one who’d told me the extent of the injury.”

O’Mahony has been on a long road to recovery ever since. The end isn’t quite in sight, but at least he’s running on it now, rather than hobbling.

Speaking to a lot of fellas about the ACL, it can take two years to feel normal again.

“I’ve a year to go before I’m at that. So it’ll be about managing it over the next few weeks.”

Managing means balancing requirements for the flanker. He made his long-awaited return to a Munster jersey in Saturday’s comprehensive win over Zebre, but the games just keep getting bigger from here on in. He is aware of the need to keep his knee rehab going while also trying to make himself ready for inter-pros, European clashes and Test matches.

“Strengthening it (the knee) is the big thing and control around it. I’ve done a lot of work with control and I’ll go after strength again.

“That’s tough with big games; to get enough of my leg sessions done and still be fresh for the weekend. That’s a balance I’ll have probably for the next three of four months.”

The Corkman has instilled an impressive level of patience in his philosophical approach to making this recovery a full one. Yet when there’s a sniff of facing Leinster at the Aviva Stadium, the competitive instinct can’t be hidden away.

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“I need to be integrated back in. I need to monitor my load, so we’ll see what kind of game-time I get.

Peter O’Mahony Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“It’s always great to be involved. The rivalry that goes with it, the excitement, how physical it is, the passion, the intensity of the whole day. It’s great to be involved and it’s a great platform for both of us to kick on into Europe the following week.”

In Europe and the season’s first inter-pro, O’Mahony’s new director of rugby is making sure not to trumpet any grand promises either. With the whole room of coaches, journalists and players watching on Rassie Erasmus joked that Munster were the easy pickings in Champions Cup Pool 1.

“When look at the pool. You look for the easy games and when you look at this group you quickly realise that you are the easy game.”

2016/2017 EPCR European Rugby Champions Cup  European Rugby Challenge Cup Launch Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With Munster the underdogs in Dublin 4 this Saturday, the South African took a little more pressure off his side, saying the task ahead was a daunting one.  Yet the southern province hold a one-point advantage over Leinster going in to this weekend, and they will be fiercely protective of that gap.

“Nobody even has to say anything about it,” Erasmus says of his first inter-pro, “from immediately after the Zebre game you can just feel it. Everybody knows the real game is this weekend: which is wonderful preparation for us for Europe. But it might even be tougher than Europe, as I understand it from the guys.

“Playing away from home at that stadium is a great challenge and exciting.

“While it’s a little bit daunting, it’s exciting.”

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Sean Farrell

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