Peter O'Mahony aims to drive new era after lost year
The recovery was never supposed to take this long and while Peter O'Mahony is still reluctant to pinpoint an exact return date, the light at the end of tunnel is becoming brighter with each passing day.
By the time O'Mahony makes his return from the serious knee injury suffered in the World Cup win over France last year, it will have been almost 12 months since he last played.
The 26-year-old is scheduled to make his long-awaited comeback for Munster in either round two, three or four of the Pro12 and while he is understandably eager to get out on the pitch, there is a deep understanding that having waited this long, he isn't about to jeopardise another season by rushing back.
Munster desperately missed their skipper last season and the fact that Rassie Erasmus has decided to name him as his captain for the upcoming campaign speaks volumes for the impression that O'Mahony has already made on the South African.
It has taken much longer than expected but O'Mahony is now involved in contact training, including this week at Ireland's mini camp in Carton House.
"I didn't expect it to be this long. I had a good diagram drawn for me about two months after the injury and it just goes in cycles, in ebbs and flows," he explained.
"It's just trying to get through those little low points and drive it on when you're going well. It was a good diagram to have drawn because it's not always an upward graph. Even though you're going in the right direction all the time, sometimes you might just feel sore for a week and you feel like you've lost a week's training or a week's rehab or a week off the deadline but you haven't, it's just the way it is."
Despite the arduous journey that O'Mahony has had to endure, his mental resolve has carried him through and he now looks and speaks like a man who is relishing the prospect of returning to battle.
Last season's shortcomings hurt the Cork native as much as anyone in the province, particularly because he was forced to helplessly watch from the sidelines.
O'Mahony remained a key voice in the dressing room however but rather than look back at the missed year, he has his sights set on the future.
"You'd hope that with the bulk of training that I've done now, you might get a bit more time out there during the season or you might get a couple of months or hopefully a year back at the end of my career," he maintained.
"There's loads of positives. You don't want to miss rugby, of course and you want to play as much as you can but you have to look at the other side of it as well and hopefully I'll get that back."
O'Mahony's commitment to the red or green cause has never been questioned but like his fellow combative back-row Sean O'Brien, their abrasive style of play has meant that they are far more susceptible to injury.
While he isn't about the change the style of play that has gotten him where he is today, there is a realisation that O'Mahony will have to adapt to the changing demands of the modern game.
"It's not a worry. It's probably a fact," he conceded. "It's tough but, as I said, it's part and parcel of it. I have been unbelievably lucky as well so far.
"I have mid-thirties (35) in Irish caps so far. I've probably missed out on a few already but that's part of it. You expect to, unless you're up there with Jamie's (Heaslip) robustness.
"Unfortunately, I don't have… Not that I don't have it but I just seem to pick a couple of more knocks than a couple of guys but I know I have been unbelievably lucky so far.
"I am still very young and I have a massive appetite for more Munster and Irish caps. That's the thing that has been driving me through these injures and the thing that drives anyone through big injuries is your passion to play for your club and country. I'm very close to being there (fit), so I'm looking forward to it."