# Fit and Firing
O'Donnell gets timing right to return to Munster jersey and Ireland camp
The 31-year-old captained his province to a win against London Irish on Friday.

MUNSTER’S FIRST PRE-season fixture in Cork last Friday was a big game for many of the squad’s younger players, but it was also a notable evening for the more experienced Tommy O’Donnell.

The openside flanker, who turned 31 in June, made his comeback from the shoulder issue that had ended his 2017/18 season back in April, an injury that meant O’Donnell missed the Champions Cup and Pro14 play-offs.

Munster's Tommy O'Donnell with mascots Cludia and Zac Inpho / Billy Stickland O'Donnell captained Munster against London Irish. Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

Having been back in Ireland camp at the start of last week too, the Cahir man could happily reflect on a positive few days.

O’Donnell was in strong form in Munster’s seven shirt against London Irish, looking in fine physical shape as he played until the 51st minute, was briefly subbed off, and then came back onto the pitch to see out the closing 13 minutes.

Friday’s fixture would have been in the flanker’s thoughts from months ago, particularly given that from the moment he underwent surgery on his shoulder in April, hitting pre-season with a bang was his main focus.

“I was very lucky in how it was timed in that day one of pre-season was the last day of my rehab and I was able to crack straight into it,” explains O’Donnell, who enjoyed the experience of captaining Munster against London Irish.

“That was how we timed it and it worked out well, so I got a full pre-season under the belt.

“I approach every season the same – I want to have a crack at it and wanting to improve myself. I was confident, having got a full pre-season, that I knew all the lads, knew the plays well and I just went at it.

“I knew it was going to be tough so I kept working hard.”

O’Donnell’s return to fitness for the start of the season is particularly timely given that fellow opensides Chris Cloete and Conor Oliver are both out injured.

Tommy O'Donnell Morgan Treacy / INPHO O'Donnell's last appearance for Ireland was in 2016. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

O’Donnell had more than his fair share of injuries last season, starting only 12 games and missing the semi-final defeats to Leinster and Racing in the Pro14 and Champions Cup.

“They’re difficult to watch but when I get a season-ending injury, it allows you to step back out of it,” says O’Donnell of being sidelined for those big days.

“You know your season is done and that you’ve no impact, whereas if that was a two-week injury and you could have maybe pushed back, then it’s a bit more frustrating.

“I’ve had a couple of injuries now that have been three or four months, so you just realise you need to step back from it. That makes it easier to watch.”

Making a return to Ireland camp under Joe Schmidt was also an enjoyable experience for O’Donnell, who missed out on potential involvement in last season’s November Tests, Grand Slam and summer tour of Australia because of his injury issues.

O’Donnell’s most recent appearance for Ireland came in the 2016 Six Nations and he will hope to add to his 12 caps in the campaign ahead.

“It was fantastic to be called back in, great to get in there and see the lads and some new faces,” says O’Donnell. “It was a big squad brought in.

“There’s lots of ambition in the Irish squad, lots of big things ahead in the months to come, so all you can do is be fit, be there, and have your hand up. You never know which way things will fall for you.”

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