Tuesday 28 March 2017

O'Leary hoping for normality at Montpellier after 'tough' week

O'Leary: New challenge Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
O'Leary: New challenge Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

If Tomas O'Leary didn't know where he was or what to make of things on Sunday night, it was perfectly understandable.

The Grand Slam winner described the week building up to his Montpellier debut as mad, emotional and tough, and even then you got the sense that he wasn't quite covering it as he prepared for a match by going home to attend Anthony Foley's funeral.

He spent his 33rd birthday flying to his new home and watching the emotional events unfold at his old one.

"It was a mad week, I knew I was coming over here last Friday. I came over here last Saturday and then on Sunday I got news from the lads about Axel," he said.

"I went back for the funeral, so I didn't really have a chance to settle. It was a really emotional week, a tough week and then coming back here to play. . . at least it was a bit of a distraction after a tough few days."

His new club had no issue allowing him to return to Killaloe to pay his respects to Foley.

"The thing that stood out to me about Axel was his loyalty to everything Munster - his belief in everything Munster and all of the lads was unwavering," said O'Leary.

"He was the epitome of everything Munster stands for. It's a total shock."

After two games at the start of this season, O'Leary fell out of favour with Rassie Erasmus and, rather than sulk and spend the rest of his time with the province on the fringes, he sought out a new opportunity.

That's how he ended up playing against Leinster in the closing stages of a tumultuous Champions Cup clash on Sunday afternoon alongside players he'd barely met. He is officially on loan for four months, a so-called 'medical joker'.

"It's just a decision by (Erasmus) and I've no qualms with that," O'Leary said. "When I didn't get into the European squad I was a bit frustrated and I had a look to see if there was anything else out there.

"Montpellier were looking for a No 9 for four months, so fair dues to Munster they let me go. Even when Cathal (Sheridan) got injured they could have stood in my way, but they were great to let me go and I appreciate that.

"It's great to get back involved in European rugby and hopefully in the Top 14 in the next few weeks, to get back playing some rugby and at this stage of my career that's all I want to do.

" "It's a lovely part of the world, a fantastic team. They are sitting pretty in the Top 14, top three or four. It's a great opportunity for me."

Irish Independent

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