Thursday 27 October 2016

'Everyone is here to compete and to win silverware'

Garryowen flyer primed to put groin injuries in past and earn spot among Munster's elite

Daragh Small

Published 27/11/2015 | 02:30

‘I feel like I am able to play at a very high level,’ says Ronan O’Mahony
‘I feel like I am able to play at a very high level,’ says Ronan O’Mahony

Munster speed merchant Ronan O'Mahony cannot remember where he was when they last won the European Cup.

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It was seven years ago when Munster last tasted success in Europe's premier club competition. They have won two Pro12 titles since then, but after last season's final defeat to Glasgow their hunger only gets stronger.

The Garryowen clubman was only part of the academy at Munster when they claimed their last Pro12 crown in 2010-'11. But now the 26-year-old is very much a part of coach Anthony Foley's plans, and with a two-year contract extension since last February he wants his hard work to pay off.

He has 32 appearances and five tries in the bag already, however injury has held him back and towards the end of last season a groin strain prevented him from fulfilling his potential.

His pre-season plans were scuppered, he had to focus on rehab off the pitch, while the other fit players put their case forward, on it. But with 100 minutes of Pro12 action and two full games in the B&I Cup, O'Mahony wants an extended run in the side.

"The groin injury just came on during the season last year, and I played a bit through it. I was managing it fine, but at the end I said I would try and get it right," he says.

"It just took a little longer than expected to rehab. It was pretty intense, I did a lot of work here with Shea McAleer, our head physio. And I was up in Santry with Enda King. He would be a rehab specialist up there. I spent two weeks with him as well.

"Just seeing what exercises worked for me and what ones didn't. Eventually between Shea and Enda we found a good programme, and I stayed with that for a while. After a couple of weeks then it came good.

"I would have done a full pre-season it's just I wouldn't have been on the pitch with the lads. I would stay off my feet with the groin. I was doing a lot of work with the watt bike. And with the S&C coach PJ Wilson.

"It was just about getting back on the pitch, getting back used to playing, and getting the sharpness back. Sharpness really comes with games. The next period is just about getting game-time."

And it's a massive run of games for Munster as they look to build on their positive start to the season, where they are second in the Pro12 with six wins from seven.


In Europe, they beat Treviso on their only outing so far in Pool 4, but the B&I Cup has been O'Mahony's main outlet so far this season.

Munster 'A' lost to London Scottish in the opening round, but defeated Yorkshire Carnegie last time out.

Munster last won the B&I Cup in 2012 and O'Mahony says it's crucial that the Munster second string remain competitive.

"We have always had a good pedigree in the 'A' department. When you have a good 'A' side that is competing and challenging the senior lads, it drives both teams. Lads are very hungry, and eager to impress.

"It is a shop window for the senior team. When you get your opportunity you have got to take them. When the 'A' team pick up their standards as opposition for the senior side, I think the whole standard comes up in general. It's a great environment to be in."

But O'Mahony wants to be in the first 15. He started 12 games last season, and wants to improve on that further. However, even despite the loss of stalwart Felix Jones, Munster have never had such a competitive back three.

Andrew Conway has slotted in brilliantly at full-back, while the return of internationals Keith Earls and Simon Zebo has added experience, and Gerhard van den Heever has plenty of potential too.

"There is huge competition, that is always going to be the case in any club or any environment you are in. There is always going to be competition and that only makes it better.

"In this organisation, especially in the back three, we are always picking each other's minds to see what we can do better. Doing good analysis on the opposition week by week, and just having good chats.

"I think the fact that there is just good competition, everyone increases their standards in our backfield, and it makes us all better as individuals."

But the ambition remains entrenched in O'Mahony and when he signed on the dotted line earlier this year, he signalled his intent to fight for a starting spot in one of the most competitive backlines in the Pro12.

At a club where the supporters long for success, the players do too. But O'Mahony is focused on getting himself fit and ready to propel his career up another few notches in 2015-'16.

"I feel like I am able to play at a very high level. I showed that last year in some of the games. For me at the moment, it is just getting my sharpness back on the pitch, and it's coming - just getting as much game-time as I can.

"There is no one in Munster that will tell you, that they are there just to make up numbers. Everyone is there to compete, everyone is there to win silverware.

"We are all rugby players at the end of the day. All we want to do is play and win. So be it with the 'A's or with the club, or with Munster. I want to give it 100 per cent, and get back playing well."

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