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O'Mahony taking enjoyment from 'savage pressure' on Munster in Europe

Munster's Peter O'Mahony. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster's Peter O'Mahony. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Fuelled by tragic defiance, Thomond Park was restored to its former glories last season.

A year ago, Glasgow Warriors came to Limerick on a day that will live forever in the European rugby memory bank. A day after laying their head coach Anthony Foley to rest, Munster came out and put in a display that defied belief and they rolled on from there.

Leicester Tigers, Racing 92 and Toulouse all came and left with their tails between their legs as the old fires roared.

In recent campaigns, the invincibility surrounding the citadel had faded but suddenly it was back. Munster's mission now is to keep the flame lit.

This weekend, Racing return with Ronan O'Gara at the helm and the injured Donnacha Ryan behind the scenes. Dan Carter is likely to be leading their backline, Leone Nakarawa throwing offloads for fun.

Whereas last season they were a beaten docket, this year they arrive on the back of an impressive opening-day win and, so, have plenty to play for.

French teams always travel with a question mark, but the Parisians were competitive when they arrived in Ireland with a weakened team last season and may be emboldened by the experience.

For Peter O'Mahony, who was reared on big nights at Thomond, this is a non-negotiable for his Munster team.

"European Cup nights at Thomond Park are very special," said the captain. "There's a savage amount of pressure but also a savage amount of enjoyment in getting your head down and getting stuck in and working hard.

"The fans get behind us, everyone in Munster loves Europe and maybe at times you might take it for granted. But you shouldn't take it for granted, guys speak about leaving the jersey in a good place and these are the kinds of evenings when that needs to be done.

"It's almost cup rugby all of the time now, the teams you're coming up against are big names after big names and individuals with big names after big names.

"It's certainly important for us to win, you are not going to win or lose a competition this weekend but it's paramount for us to give a good performance."

O'Mahony met new head coach Johann van Graan on Tuesday and is looking forward to getting to know the South African who is visiting Limerick ahead of his permanent move.

"I'll hopefully grab a coffee with him over the next few days," he said.

"We're not going to be changing the wheel, Johann is going to come in and I think his experience speaks for itself... hugely impressive CV, everyone I have spoken to about him speaks very highly of him.

"I'm certainly looking forward to getting coached by him and getting to know him. I suppose myself and the leadership group are going to be a very important bridge, I suppose not so much get him up to speed with what we do here because he's going to implement his few things.

"And we'll be the drivers of it same as we are with the current lads as well. It's always a very important relationship between myself, him and the leadership group."

That's the long-term focus, but the short-term goal is getting another home win.

"They are quality, from 1 to 23, no matter who comes over," O'Mahony said of Racing.

"From a forward's point of view, I think they mauled every one of their lineouts bar one at the weekend so obviously it is going to be a big physical encounter. But of course they also have the quality out in the backs as well."

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