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Peter O’Mahony crestfallen as tough defeat signals end of an era

Defiant Munster flanker says he retains huge pride in what this Ireland team have achieved in recent years

Like some of the older guard competing in their third or fourth Rugby World Cup, Peter O’Mahony has probably played his best rugby and enjoyed this one more than any other.

But like those peers, O’Mahony assuredly won’t be around to play in Australia four years’ hence and in the immediate aftermath of this painful defeat he admitted he wasn’t sure how long more he could continue playing in an Irish jersey.

“Will I come back?” responded a downcast O’Mahony, now 34. “We’ll see. It’s a tough one to take, as a lot of my friends won’t be back. I’ve a contract to the end of the year [2023-24 season] and we’ll see how we go after that.”

For O’Mahony and a few others especially, a dressing-room without Keith Earls and Johnny Sexton, both of whom have now played their last competitive game of rugby, simply won’t be the same.


“It’s tough to lose these guys in these tough circumstances. I’ve spent a lot of time with himself [Earls] and Johnny obviously. Probably every one of my caps had one or both of them in it, if not all of them. It’s tough to lose fellas like that – big characters, big players for us. Most importantly, big people, the best type of people, fellas who have your back all the time, good friends of mine. So it’s tough to say goodbye to them.”

Whatever his future or that of other team-mates, the Munster flanker also admitted: “It is the end of an era. It is. You’ve a group of senior players who are moving on. There’s no other way of putting it. There’s a group of guys who won’t play for Ireland again who’ve had an incredible impact on Irish rugby, not only in the last few years but in the last decade. So absolutely, it is the end of an era, yeah.”

Yet, although he admitted this was the hardest defeat to take, O’Mahony did his best to put some perspective on it.

“Andy spoke really well, about how proud we should be of the last few years. I thought he was very professional and very positive to be fair. It’s a tough dressing room, probably the toughest I’ve been in, to be honest. But look, there’s worse things going on in the world. We’ll understand that over the next 24/48 hours.”

Asked by a New Zealand journalist whether his sledging of Sam Cane in the second Test in Dunedin last year backfired, O’Mahony responded in characteristically disdainful fashion. “That’s a bullshit question.” Turning away from him, O’Mahony added: “Any other questions, lads?”

O’Mahony was one of the five frontliners ruled out of the 2015 quarter-final loss to Argentina, and played in the 46-14 beating by the All Blacks in Japan.

“Ah it’s different, beaten by 50 points. It was hard to show your face when we went home. I’d hope there’d be a lot of people proud of the team and the performances they’ve put in. We’ve seen some of the videos of the support we’ve had at home. It’s been incredible so hopefully they’re proud of us.”

Whether the future includes him or not, O’Mahony believes it will be a bright one.

“There’s a great group of young players there. Lots of players who aren’t here but who were in our squad can step up to the plate as well. I’ve no doubt this team will have left Irish rugby in a better place.

“We’ve achieved a huge amount – there’s no other way of putting it. There’s disappointment tonight, obviously, but I think we can be proud of where we’ve left the jersey. It’s about honouring the jersey and I think this group have left it in a good place.”

Maintaining the theme, O’Mahony said: “I’m very proud of the team. We’ve achieved a huge amount together over the last four years, building up to this. It’s a terribly tough pill to swallow.

“We had plans to continue on for the next couple of weeks but I’m proud of the lads and how they’ve carried themselves over the past few weeks, and the past few years. We’ve had 17 games unbeaten, a Grand Slam, a series won in New Zealand. There are lots of positives for this group and I’m sure there’s lots of kids who we’ve inspired to take up the game and who might be in this position in 15/20 years’ time and you can look back and be proud of that.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times