Saturday 7 December 2019

O'Donoghue happy to earn spurs as a Jack of all trades

Jack O’Donohgue is making his mark with his versatility and is hoping to get more European action under his belt tomorrow. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Jack O’Donohgue is making his mark with his versatility and is hoping to get more European action under his belt tomorrow. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Jack O'Donoghue already knows there is a difference between becoming the best and staying there.

Munster are nowhere near their best yet, you feel; and when they fall well below the standards they set for themselves, as they did away to Leicester in their solitary defeat since November, the outcome is painfully inevitable.

"That was a real kick up the hole for us," says O'Donoghue; they don't shirk on straight talking where he is from, whether you play rugby for Waterpark or hurl for Ballygunner - and he has done both.

"It shows that we can't get complacent and can't get ahead of ourselves."

On the topic of becoming and maintaining pre-eminence, O'Donoghue is also learning that you don't always get to choose the circumstances.

When Tommy O'Donnell damaged his second ankle in a month over in Paris a fortnight back, the Deise man was primed to take his place.

Except openside is not necessarily where O'Donoghue can display his finest ball-carrying talent. Well, tough.

The individual is subsumed in the collective as far as rugby is concerned. His role can never be as important as the team's.

He made his Ireland debut at No 8 in November but, for the foreseeable future at least, the inestimable influence of Jamie Heaslip is immoveable. And try shifting CJ Stander.

O'Donoghue may do this weekend should Munster rest their restless South African standard bearer, or else he may slot in on the flanks again should O'Donnell not be risked.

"I'm itching to get out there. It's a massive game, a sell-out crowd and it will be something special as we are trying to get that home quarter-final," he says.

"It was a new role for me playing at seven at European level; I know my first start for Munster was there, but to be out against Glasgow, trying to get a quarter-final place, I was happy enough with the way it went.


"There were a few snags but nothing that I can't get right with Jacques Nienaber (defence coach) during the week.

"Competition is huge here but that gives us a lot of energy in training, feeding and buzzing off each other.

"We all know that you have to go in and do a job if selected and Tommy was a real help to me as a seven, helping me out, giving me little roles and little cheats.

"It's really all about the team and all about trying to better for the team at the end of the day."

O'Donoghue has been earmarked for a bright future from a long way out and appreciates that rare opportunities such as these are vital in terms of career development.

"Everything is so positive and everyone is so positive," he says. "There are some negatives after games when you look at things that didn't go right but they are easily solved when we are winning and on a high.

"The thing is that we can't get complacent because that's when it goes south very quickly.

"I do have to pinch myself sometimes though. It did happen very fast for me and I have to go back to Axel (Foley) and thank him for that as he was the one who brought me through and gave me opportunities.

"It's something special to be involved this is new generation coming through and are trying to create our own history now.

"It could be the first time that I could potentially be involved in a quarter-final. I remember in 2008 I was that lad in the stand watching those sell-out games - this one is going to be massive.

"I remember 2006 too; I was in sixth class and I was making my Confirmation on the same day as the final and I was not allowed to the final. I was furious with my mother!"

Receiving the Ireland recognition was another significant step too.

"It was massive to get the first cap but once you get the first you want the second and I'm trying to push on and be with the Six Nations squad," he says.

"I got the nod last year to go in as cover but to be named in the initial Six Nations squad for this year would be massive.

"But I'm focused on Munster and the job at hand and if any of that call comes now or in the future, so be it.

"I was full of energy coming back to Munster in November with the things that I learned in Ireland camp and I was able to come here, showcase them and try to get a spot here.

"You learned more as the season went on.

"There was lot of defending last weekend. I couldn't really worry about trying to control the ball from the back of scrum when I was at No 7.


"There is a massive defensive role for Munster and that's what I had to do.

"It's only going to feed into my game and if it means I get the nod in the Ireland camp I'm happy enough working at these different things in a small period of time.

"Whether I get the start at seven or eight, I try to work on these things."

O'Donoghue knows that the Racing side that visits Limerick this weekend will represent a stiff task, particularly with Ronan O'Gara attempting to eradicate the embarrassment of the reverse fixture in Paris from their minds.

"It's a strange one for ROG coming back but we are focused on ourselves," he says.

"We are much too focused on doing what we have to do to win and get that home quarter-final.

"Racing are deadly when the ball is in open play and you saw when we played them, there was a deflection and they ended up getting over for a score.

"They really are a joué team when they are in open play. We have to stick to our game-plan, play the game on our terms."

He will stick to his plan, too. Dig deeper though, and O'Donoghue is pressed as to where he sees himself long-term. For him, it's the simplest of answers.

"Uimhir a hocht."

A statement of intent, in any language, for someone who is learning the acute difference in difficulty between becoming the best and staying there.

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