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Captain O'Mahony closes in on comeback for Erasmus' Munster

It’s been a long road back for the blindside flanker, who is positive about the new regime.

PETER O’MAHONY HAD a useful diagram drawn for him about two months after he ruptured the ACL in his right knee during Ireland’s 2015 World Cup campaign.

The Cork man was taking his usual ultra-positive approach to the rehabilitation and targeting a return to play as early as possible, but the medical expertise helped him to understand that the journey back wasn’t always going to be smooth.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony was at the Pro12 launch on Tuesday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I had a good diagram drawn for me,” says O’Mahony, “and it just goes in cycles and ebbs and flows. It’s just trying to get through the little low points and drive it on when you’re going well.

“It was a good diagram to have drawn because it’s not always an upward graph. Even though you’re going in the right direction all the time, sometimes you might just feel sore for a week and you feel like you’ve lost a week’s training or a week’s rehab or a week off the deadline but you haven’t; it’s just the way it is.”

The worst is over for O’Mahony now, with the back row having been involved in contact training during Munster’s pre-season. He was also part of Ireland’s three-day training camp at Carton House from last Sunday onwards.

O’Mahony cannot clarify yet exactly when the southern province’s fans will see him back in the pitch for the first time since May of 2015, but it’s close now.

I’m hoping for somewhere in round two, three, four [of the Guinness Pro12], so I’m nearly there.”

Still only 26, O’Mahony’s body has felt the brunt of professional rugby, with both of his shoulders having been operated on in 2014.

The concern is that the explosive, elastic and mobile athlete that the Cork man was when first bursting through with Munster and Ireland has been altered somehow by this run of injuries.

Peter O'Mahony The Cork man has done contact training with Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s not a worry; it’s probably a fact,” says O’Mahony. “It’s tough but it’s part and parcel of it.

“I have been unbelievably lucky so far. I have mid-30s in terms of Irish caps already [he has 35]. I’ve probably missed out on a few but that’s part of it; you can’t expect – unless your Jamie [Heaslip] who is up there with robustness.

“Unfortunately, not that I don’t have it, but I seem to pick up more knocks than a couple of guys.

“I’m still very young and I have a massive appetite for more Munster caps and Irish caps. That’s the thing that has been driving me through these injures and the thing that drives anyone through big injuries, is your passion to play for your club and country.”

Having not played since suffering his injury against France at last year’s World Cup, O’Mahony is understandably excited about getting back on the pitch and says he was “delighted” to be handed the Munster captaincy again.

New director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has put his faith in O’Mahony, and the blindside flanker feels that the South African is having a confidence-lifting effect on the entire squad.

“He said to us on day one, ‘You are not that far off,’” says O’Mahony.

“If you do some video analysis, it’s very small things; you hold an extra two feet of depth in two or three games and you score an extra try. The difference is the amount of games that we lost within seven points last year.

Peter O'Mahony O'Mahony hopes to lead Munster into a Pro12 final at the Aviva Stadium. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“You don’t lose two or three of them by the smallest margins and you are in a semi-final and it would have been different. But we knew we weren’t good enough, we didn’t play well at times last year.

“But he has come in and given us the confidence and I believe it as well, that there is good stuff that we did last year. There were good performances, parts of our poor performances were good.

There is a lot of history that goes with Munster, there is a huge amount of hard work and there is a huge amount of people that care about the club that are still there.

“It is not like we have to go and pull the place asunder and reinvent what we are doing. We have small little tweaks to make in a couple of different areas and hopefully we can start playing.”

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Murray Kinsella

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