Saturday 24 August 2019

Club Focus: 'Top club Con still put family at the core of their progression'

Cork Constitution club president O’Mahony a keen follower of sons’ progress in game, writes Daragh Small

Cork Con captain Niall Kenneally in action against Clontarf
Cork Con captain Niall Kenneally in action against Clontarf

Cork Con have dominated Irish club rugby in recent years, and John O'Mahony could be the next president to experience Division 1A success while at the helm.

Father of former British & Irish Lions captain Peter O'Mahony, the Douglas native has been steeped in the fabric of Cork Con since he was five years old.

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Now he works for the prison service in Cork and sits in the presidential hot seat during a season of further unprecedented success.

All of this while his eldest son captains Munster in their bid for PRO14 glory. The 29-year-old blindside flanker has played 123 times for Munster, won 57 caps for Ireland and toured New Zealand with the British & Irish Lions in 2017.

Alex McHenry gets the offload away
Alex McHenry gets the offload away

But John O'Mahony is proud of all of his sons - Peter has two younger brothers, Mark and Cian.

"They are fabulous kids, all three of them," says O'Mahony. "All hugely interested in rugby, they play at different levels but rugby is inclusive and it provides for all aspects of the game.

"People are playing just for fun and there is the other end with the professional level. It is what it should be, an outlet for people and a physical sport which is great fun for everybody whatever level you play.

"Of course, I would have shed a tear the first time Peter played for Munster and equally for Ireland and the Lions, without in any way being complacent.

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"Peter is touching towards 60 caps for Ireland now and probably 150 for Munster or so. I am past the point of breaking down every time he dons the jersey. It is brilliant. But as a father, as distinct from just Peter's dad, I was at U-18 club game on Monday with my youngest fella.

"They are all playing at different levels. I am just as proud of each of them."

Peter O’Mahony receives the Player of the Year award alongside his fiancee Jessica at the Munster Rugby Awards.
Peter O’Mahony receives the Player of the Year award alongside his fiancee Jessica at the Munster Rugby Awards.

John O'Mahony played at centre during his time in a Con jersey but he made more of an impact off the field where he began working with the committee from an early age.

He also coached underage sides when future internationals Peter O'Mahony and Simon Zebo broke through in a promising batch of youngsters.

"I have been involved in the administrative side of Con for over a decade now at this stage," says O'Mahony.

"The presidency is probably the easiest year that I had. Con is a very well-run, smoothly-oiled machine at this stage. It is a pleasure to be involved in any aspect of it.

Easier

"But to some extent, when you are president and awful lot of things are going on behind the scenes that you don't necessarily have to get involved with. It is a little bit easier in that respect than for example a club secretary in any club.

Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell and JJ Hanrahan also received also their 100th caps at the ceremony
Andrew Conway, Rory Scannell and JJ Hanrahan also received also their 100th caps at the ceremony

"I am thoroughly enjoying it. But it is very easy to be a club president in a club like Con where the year has progressed so well, not just the senior team, the juniors are into a cup final, the J2s won a cup final the other night, won the Munster Senior Cup.

"It is very easy to enjoy years like that. Our status as a 1A side was decided before Christmas. It's a privilege and a pleasure as well."

Cork Con have won the All-Ireland League on five occasions, second only to nine-time champions Shannon on the roll of honour. Their most recent victory came just two years ago and they lost last year's final.

But having finished top of the Division 1A standings after the group stages, Cork Con welcome Dublin University to Temple Hill on Sunday. The hosts will be expected to win and O'Mahony knows there is some great work going on at senior level.

"Brian Hickey is our top guy there," says O'Mahony.

"Brian has been with us in various coaching capacities, both with Brian Walsh, on his own, with Paul Barr and a different set-up.

"Without fear of contradiction, looking at our stats over the last ten years we are without doubt the most successful AIL side, and he is the most successful coach in the first division.

"We all aspire to be All-Ireland League champions, it is what the team go out and train for every night. They work so hard.

"They are an incredible bunch. They have had a few years' experience now. We have a great blend of that experience with the likes of Brian Hayes and these guys, Niall Kenneally, our club captain, allied to that this year we have had the likes of Jonathan Wren and Seán French who were two of the participants in the Grand Slam U-20 Six Nations side.

"We are constantly evolving on the playing front. But like anything successful, it's because we work very hard for it and people put so much time and effort into the club."

Another success at senior level will send ripples down through the structures in a club that have got it right on and off the field.

O'Mahony is enjoying his time as president but he knows it wouldn't be such an experience if it wasn't for the wonderful volunteers that donate their time for the cause.

"I was playing for a long time for Cork Con, not at any great level. But I hugely enjoyed my time there," says O'Mahony.

"Testament to that is the fact that I am still involved with the club. The club has been so good. I have gotten so much out of it through my family and everything.

"It has been an important part of my life, but not just me, if you go up to Con any Saturday morning there and you see the involvement of juvenile coaches of the calibre of Doug Howlett, Frankie Sheahan and John Kelly, they are just guys working with the juveniles.

"From the senior side of things, Donncha O'Callaghan is bursting to get involved with the club which he does any time he can. We have the likes of Jerry Holland, Ralph Keyes.

"Other clubs have said openly to us that most of our great international players, Donal Lenihan is the incoming president in two years' time, they are all hugely involved.

"Not just the playing aspect, the administrative side of things is a perfect melting pot for all of those people."

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