O'Mahony arrives at Munster training yesterday alongside Tommy O'Donnell. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
catalan cauldron

O'Mahony: Munster have been winning in France for years

The southern province’s captain feels his team will thrive in the Stade Aimé Giral’s overbearing atmosphere.

MUNSTER HAVE WON just once in their last five trips to France, but that won’t stop them flying to Perpignan with a high dose of confidence on board.

The last time the southern province visited the Catalan stronghold [in 2009], they emerged 37-14 winners after a superb performance resulted in Denis Fogarty, Jean de Villiers, Denis Hurley and Doug Howlett crossing for tries.

Munster’s more recent history suggests that his assertion may not be totally backed up by the facts, but Peter O’Mahony says Irish teams have no problem winning on the road in France.

“Munster have been doing it for a good few years at this stage. Leinster have been doing it for a good few years at this stage too. So it won’t be new for us; every Irish team travelling to France knows that if they’re going to get a win, it’s going to be hard-earned.

If you do come out of it with a win, it’s going to have been a tough game. It’s going to have been an 80-minute game with blood and bruised bodies, but that’s what it takes to win in France. That’s what we’ll be looking to do.”

Losing international scrum-half Conor Murray to a knee injury in last weekend’s 36-8 victory is an obvious blow before tomorrow’s return leg in Perpignan, something O’Mahony freely admits. However, the Munster captain underlines his belief that the back-up is of high quality.

“He’s a key part of our team. As of the last two years, he’s been our first choice scrum-half. He’s now a Lion and an established international player, so he is a big loss but I think we’ve three or four great scrum-halves coming through.

“It’s great for them to get the opportunity. Obviously Cathal Sheridan was on the bench last week and Duncan Williams; these guys are class rugby players. We’ve great competition there so we’re lucky that we’ll be able to fill his boots with quality players.”

imageO’Mahony reckons Irish teams have no fear of travelling to France. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy.

Another man who inspires confidence in O’Mahony is fellow back row Sean Dougall. The openside flanker pushed Keith Earls hard for the man of the match award last weekend, and grows in importance to Rob Penney’s side with each passing week.

“He was top of the bus to be fair to him. He’s been a bit unlucky with injury over the past few months but I think everyone in the squad knew it was in him and in all the Heineken Cup rugby he’s played, he’s been quality for us. It didn’t shock us in any way. He was class and he was hugely important for us last weekend.”

O’Mahony will need to ensure Dougall and co. are motivated and focused for tomorrow’s encounter in Perpignan. That the Catalans have won 22 of their last 23 home games in the Heineken Cup points to the necessity for Munster to be at their very best to emerge with four points.

The Stade Aimé Giral is deservedly appreciated across France for its wonderful atmosphere and USAP’s numerous supporters clubs usually produce an intimidating welcome for the away team. O’Mahony has his own theory on how to counter that.

I suppose you try your best to keep them quiet and that’s not an easy thing to do. But at times, that’s what we’re going to have to try to do. On the flip side of it, when they are noisy, it works for both teams.

“I presume it’s the same for away teams in Thomond [Park], the noise level would really drive you on. You try and look at it from that point of view but like I said, it’s a very daunting place to play. It’s a tough place to go.

“They’re very rarely beaten at home and I think they’ve support to maybe even rival our own.”

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