Monday 18 December 2017

O'Mahony displays skills that mark him out as captain for long term

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

PETER O'MAHONY's journey as Ireland captain may be just three weeks and two caps old but in Toronto he served notice that he is well able to do the job.

Joe Schmidt's arrival on the Irish scene means the captaincy question remains unanswered.

Jamie Heaslip is the incumbent and has worked with the New Zealander before, but Paul O'Connell's return to form and fitness means he is in the running to take up a mantle that, since 2009, he has previously only held as a stand-in for Brian O'Driscoll.

With Doug Howlett retiring, now would seem like a perfect time to hand the Munster job to O'Mahony, who has impressed on and off the pitch in the States, with the long-term Irish gig in mind.

With O'Connell possibly leading Ireland and Heaslip the favourite to succeed Leo Cullen at Leinster, it would see the ducks being aligned quite nicely as the succession planning continues.

O'Mahony's display on Saturday night was all-consuming. He was everywhere. Along with Ian Madigan's control from fly-half, his contribution was the standout of the tour and hat-trick scorer Fergus McFadden said the duo's emergence had been a highlight of the trip.

LEADERSHIP

"Pete has captained Munster a few times so he's living in Paulie's shadow. He's played under Paulie as captain for a long time. He's one of the all-time greats. He's probably learned a lot from him and his leadership qualities," he said.

"As for Ian, his playmaking and control has combined with his leadership. Under Jonny, he's come into his own. He was Leinster Player of the Year. That speaks for itself.

"I think a few lads stood up on this tour and we need that when the likes of Paulie, Drico (Brian O'Driscoll) and Jonny Sexton go away."

In the build-up to Saturday night's game, O'Mahony had said that "no man would be left behind" if the Canadians tried to raise the heat. They did, roughing up Madigan and even trying to get to the captain himself when scrum-half Phil Mack stamped on him. He responded as he said he would.

"We talked about that during the week, talked about being together and being united as a squad and not leaving anyone behind and certainly the pack looks after their nine and 10," he said.

"But I thought, I really must say, the pack and the back three, the decision-makers all really stood up today and I was really impressed, delighted and honoured to play alongside all of them.

"To captain your country is a huge honour and to get two wins out of two, and I've loved every minute of it."

You'd imagine it won't be long before he is asked again.

Irish Independent

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