Sunday 21 January 2018

'What is going on is a business situation, it's business deals' - Peter O'Mahony

Murray feels IRFU discussions can 'distract' players, but Reds captain says his full focus is on Leicester

Peter O'Mahony during Munster Rugby squad training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Peter O'Mahony during Munster Rugby squad training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo was able to take a full part in Munster training in Limerick yesterday despite taking a hefty crack to the ribs against the Ospreys on Saturday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

It would have been much easier in his position, like many others before him, not to front up - except Peter O'Mahony doesn't know the meaning of the words.

Nominally, he is here to speak about Munster's Champions Cup future; his supporters, however, only want to know the latest about his own.

"It's European Cup week with Munster, you know what I mean, so it's very easy to focus the mind," he says. Easier said than done.

A local journalist has already tried to focus it by trying to re-assert whether O'Mahony was "Munster through and through"; an unwittingly cutting intervention.

For O'Mahony, this is professional, not personal.

"Absolutely I am," he says, taking no offence, where much might exist.

"It's professional sport. It's a short career.

"Look lads, I can't sit here as Munster captain and discuss that with you. It's for my agents to deal with so we'll leave it at that."

Later, in the print press briefing, he expands a tad.

"What is going on is a business situation, it's business deals. It's separate.

"Your emotion is with the club and getting right for the weekend, you know what I mean? The lads are dealing with it. It's a different part of my life at the moment."

Still, if a call came through this week offering him an extra few zeroes or the Irish captaincy - per chance - he'd have to take a call at some stage..

"We're not talking about… I don't think that is how it works with the Irish captaincy."

He wouldn't refuse it though?

"No, of course not but that is what my agents are doing. They are dealing with it."

But you may have to deal with it?

"Yeah but… the lads are dealing with the bones of it. I might have to make a yes or no call but that is just it. There has to be a decision made at some stage."

See how tricky it all is? And this in a relatively informal chat with a Dublin hack with no skin in the game.

"I would have liked to have had it done sooner than this to be honest, it is just the way it has fallen," he admits.

"To be fair to David (Nucifora) he has got a lot of guys to do. It's difficult to get them all done early, but I would certainly prefer to get it done a bit earlier but that is the joys of it."

O'Mahony may remain pivotal to Munster but to the IRFU, who pay his wages, his injury profile and playing position perhaps render him less so; these are the hub of the talks which will be decided by the new year.

"It's a different time in my career, I suppose, and people seem to have a lot more interest this time than they did last time."

Whoever secures him will want him more, for sure. Munster are the piggy in the middle and the value of any emotions are worthless in cases like these.

Conor Murray, who, if in a dire scenario were two Munster captains allowed to jump ship, may end up becoming one. Captain, that is. Given O'Mahony's distractions, the scrum-half sounded like one too.

Unlike those centrally involved, who are seemingly unperturbed by having such drama performed through the media, he understands why fans are not.

Heart

"From the supporters' point of view, their heart jumps, because they probably don't get to speak to Peter or CJ, or anyone who is up for contract.

"When we hear rumours in the paper we probably know, or we have had a chat to the lads about it and maybe our minds are a little bit more at ease because it is just the time of year."

They all know the dance.

"I think we manage it really well as a playing group. We know what is true, what is false, what to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to."

And yet, without willingly blowing a hole in his captain's argument that distraction will not become an issue in this significant month of on-field action, Murray does exactly that when asked should all this brinkmanship be sorted out of season.

"Maybe that's a good idea to move it to the summer and then you are not playing games, you can fully think about it. I know what you mean.

"My last contract was sorted pretty quickly which was great for me. But when things get dragged out, and no one is agreeing, and there is a bit of toing and froing, it does distract you.

"You might think it doesn't but it will get to you at some stage. It is security for your future whatever length of contract. If it does drag out it is a little bit stressful. My contract is not up for another while and hopefully I won't have to be talking about it for a good while.

"It is nice when you do finally get it over the line, so hopefully things get sorted pretty quickly."

There it is from a man of importance. It is an issue. A big one. Especially as Munster, struggling financially and shorn a decent deck of IRFU-paid contracts, appear vulnerable.

"In general, I don't think we are any worse off than any others, this happens all the time. Maybe with Simon Zebo, that is probably more a profile thing and it has put a lot more spotlight on it."

And, as we know, being caught in the glare is damned uncomfortable.

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