Tuesday 22 May 2018

It's been a long road but Ronan's ready to shine again

Flying winger has put leg break behind him and is just a few weeks away from return to action

Ronan O’Mahony aims to put last season’s injury behind him SPORTSFILE
Ronan O’Mahony aims to put last season’s injury behind him SPORTSFILE

Daragh Small

With Alex Wootton impressing out wide for Munster this season, Darren Sweetnam's reputation continuing to grow, Andrew Conway in top form and Ireland internationals Keith Earls and Simon Zebo easing their way back in, it could be easy to forget about one of the province's most prolific campaigners in 2016-17.

Ronan O'Mahony scored ten tries in 22 games for Munster last season before he broke his leg at Benetton Rugby on April 29, ensuring he would miss some of Munster's biggest games.

Munster lost their Champions Cup semi-final against Saracens and they were also defeated by Scarlets in the PRO12 final - both at the Aviva Stadium in May - and O'Mahony was forced to watch on and ponder what might have been.

But since then his road to recovery has been plotted out by the Munster S&C staff and medical team and with the finishing line in sight, he is getting very excited.

"It's been a long road so far. A bit stop-start with rehab and recovery, but I'm definitely making strides now. I'm back on the pitch and back running. Hopefully it won't be too much longer," said O'Mahony.

"It's been a while since I've scored a try and I can't wait for that to happen again because it will come. I had a good hot streak last year so hopefully I can take off from there again."

The 28-year-old Limerick native has pinpointed the end of November as a potential date for his reappearance in some sort of Munster shirt, and by then the Munster set-up could have a very different look to it.

Earlier this week Johann van Graan was confirmed as the next director of rugby at the province and he will replace Rassie Erasmus, who returns to take the reins in his native South Africa.

It's a huge period of transition for Munster Rugby but O'Mahony is confident that the team can hit the ground running under new leadership, and he feels Van Graan is the right man to steer the ship in the right direction.

"Johann's around this week, he was in while when we were having lunch on Tuesday. I am looking forward to working with him. He's supposed to be a great coach and it's exciting times ahead for Munster," said O'Mahony.

"Johann is coming here, moving his family to Ireland and taking it incredibly seriously. It was the same with Rassie before him. Guys like that, when they are putting everything on the line they are really buying into what we have here.

"I am sure he will fit in well. He comes from an analysis background and I'm sure he will be all over everything. We are really looking forward to working with him."

Returns

O'Mahony's first job when he returns will be to fight off the competition in the ranks, a depth that Munster haven't experienced for a long time, if ever, in their backline.

But going from a serious injury to that, O'Mahony looks set to thrive on the competitiveness and he just wants the chance to shine after a tough few months rehabbing.

"There is competition all over the squad. It leads to a much more competitive training environment. It's a marginal advantage between getting selected and not. And we wouldn't want to have it any other way," said O'Mahony.

"When I come back in I am going to go as hard as I ever have. I am not going to ease my way back in and see how I feel. I am a professional athlete and I am here to compete and start for Munster Rugby again.

"When you get a long-term injury you can see how professional rugby can be taken from you in an instant, so I am just grateful to be getting out there again."

O'Mahony never wants to experience that sort of injury set-back again in his career and he is grateful to everyone who helped him back along the way.

"When you are least expecting it these things crop up. Someone chipped the ball over the top, their No 8 went to get the back, but he tripped and fell into my leg.

"I popped up the other side of him, looked down and knew it wasn't right. I just called for the sideline right away," recalled O'Mahony.

"I just knew there was something wrong. I couldn't feel much below my knee.

"I got stretchered off and went to the hospital in Italy. No one really spoke English and I was there on my own wondering what was going on.

"Eventually a nurse arrived on the scene about an hour later and she translated for me and showed me the scans showing that I had broken my leg. I have been in recovery since then.

"I had to have surgery to get a plate put into my leg. With anything surgical you are looking at a few months out. Obviously you don't know how a bone is going to react. Mine took a bit longer than I expected.

"But it's unbelievably strong now. I am feeling fitter and stronger now than I ever have which will actually stand to me now when I get out on the pitch.

"Sometimes it can be hard with long-term injuries, you spend a lot of time in your own head everyday questioning everything.

"The lads, Ray McGinley, our physio and PJ Wilson they have been in charge of the long-term injured lads in Munster. They keep the mood very positive and make it easy for us.

"It's great and even though it has been a long few months I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

Irish Independent

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