Peter O’Mahony: 'I'd expect to play this season - and we have a lot to play for'
Injury-hit skipper confident he can return 'around April or May' to aid Reds' title charge
It didn't take long for Peter O'Mahony to make peace with his horrific cruciate ligament injury. Less than 24 hours later he was back on Irish soil and had seen the surgeon - there was no prolonging of the inevitable.
He had never experienced that injury before and the immediate physical shock was replaced by the disappointment of not playing any further part in Ireland's World Cup adventure.
The Munster captain drew solace from the fact that it was not going to be a close call, he was out for the long-term. He could focus on that rather than having to ponder whether he might make a miraculous recovery.
As it turned out Ireland suffered quarter-final heartache again, and O'Mahony turned his attentions to Munster and what was left for his 2015-16.
The 26-year-old blindside flanker has not played a minute for his beloved province yet this term, but he continues the fight to be back in time to feature towards the end of it.
"I'd expect to play again this season, definitely. It'll be around April or May time. But I will know over the next four or five weeks for sure. I will be able to put a date on it," says O'Mahony.
In his absence CJ Stander has assumed captaincy and has led from the front in an up-and-down season for Anthony Foley's men where they remain in contention on both fronts.
"We have a lot to play for. We have just got to believe in what we are doing now, and believe in our game-plan and implement it," says O'Mahony.
"We have been in these positions before; we just have to dig the heels in now, and keep the head down.
"It has been challenging, but it tests the characters and at times it brings out the best in people. There were great performances against Ulster when we really needed them.
"Winning away from home, when we were struggling a bit. . . people were on our backs and we knew they wouldn't be getting off any time soon. It was important to win in a very, very tough place to go. It was a big test of character."
Munster return to Champions Cup action this weekend against Stade Francais at Stade Jean Bouin. O'Mahony has played 26 times in Europe but will not add to that this season, unless his team-mates can bounce back from successive defeats at the hands of Leicester Tigers.
The opportunity to claim his third Six Nations title in a row was another dream he had to give up when he left the field in Cardiff against France. But O'Mahony has kept things in perspective throughout.
"When you're happy enough that it was long-term it can be slightly easier to take," he explains.
"It would probably have wrecked my head more if it was only three or four weeks - I would have missed the World Cup as a result of a small injury. It's almost a little more comforting when it's a six-month thing.
"The France game was going well up until that point. It was an incredible occasion and we were playing good rugby. We out-muscled them and it was certainly enjoyable to play in until I got the bang.
"My knee just gave way. I didn't have anyone around me, I just stepped off it hard during one of the moves, it popped and went from under me. I knew it was bad. It was a sensation I didn't have before, and it was painful.
"I had a couple of niggles here and there with my knees over the years, a few medial strains, but never a big injury on either knee.
"I stayed with the squad that night, we went back to our hotel and I flew home to Cork the following morning. I saw the surgeon, Ray Moran, that same day."
He knew the news that was coming and all that was left, was to watch on helplessly as Ireland limped out of the World Cup against Argentina.
Sitting with the fellow walking wounded Paul O'Connell and Johnny Sexton, along with the suspended Sean O'Brien, it was a devastating day for Irish rugby.
"It was tough for everyone involved. The people on the pitch, the squad off the pitch and the management. It was tough for everyone. We had expectations of going much further than that in the competition."
But they players returned home and after the subsequent World Cup hangover the Irish provinces are back to form in the Pro12. Connacht made much of the early-season running, Leinster picked it up from there, and Munster's win over Ulster was a huge boost for the province.
Once again the Cork Con man has had to watch on from the stands and he says if wasn't for the help of the Munster S&C staff, and his physio Keith Thornhill it would have been even more arduous.
"I knew I wasn't going to make the Six Nations, so I put that to bed. But it is tough, it is probably going to hit home more when the lads are taking to the pitch," says O'Mahony.
"But I have loads of things for myself to be ticking off with regards to my rehab and getting back to playing. I will be keeping my head down and getting on with it.
"I have been well looked after by my physio, the doctor and the S&C guys in Munster. I have plenty of good guys around which is important.
"The injured Munster players like Stephen Archer and John Madigan have been a great help too. It's good to have those few guys who can push you on in tough times."