Peter O’Mahony on winning Six Nations: ‘One of the most special days in my career’

Head coach Andy Farrell says ‘whatever is right’ for O’Mahony as retirement from Ireland looms

If this latest Six Nations coronation on St Patrick’s weekend transpires to be his last game in an Irish jersey then it was a good way for Peter O’Mahony to sign off.

O’Mahony, Cian Healy, Conor Murray and Iain Henderson are all five-time winners of the Championship, but this triumph, of course, had the added distinction of him being captain.

The records will show that O’Mahony has started all but three of the 25 games in the Six Nations which led to the titles in 2014/15 and this year, as well as the Grand Slams of 2018 and last year. He missed the games against Italy in 2014 and this year and was a replacement against the Azzurri last year.

After lifting the URC title with Munster at the end of last season, the Indian summer in the 34-year-old’s career has been bountiful.

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“Yeah, unbelievably special. There’s three (sic) of us, but I think this was probably the most special. I said to Andy on the way in here it was a tough week and probably one of the toughest days I put down nerves-wise beforehand. Chatting to a few fellas, they were in the same boat, which was nice.

“But yeah, 100 per cent it has to be up there as one of the most special days in my career, if not the most.”

O’Mahony also shared it with Tadhg Furlong, whose father passed away this year.

“It was a nice moment for him and his family and I thought it was appropriate. He’s had a tough few months and I don’t have to talk about that any more. It was a nice moment.”

Asked once more if this might be his last game for Ireland, O’Mahony reiterated what he said pitch side to television afterwards.

“We’ll see. I don’t know. I need to go talk to my wife and family and have a think about it. I won’t be making any decisions over the next few days, but next week we’ll have to have a chat.

“I’m still loving it. This part of it is the best feeling in the world, and that’s the part you chase.

“You’ve to have a proper chat and be realistic and if it was my last one, it wasn’t a bad one to go out on. You can hang the jersey in a good place if it was. I’ll have that chat next week.”

Sitting alongside him, Andy Farrell ventured: “Whatever’s right for him.” He added: “I’ve been unbelievably a big fan of Pete all the way through his career and we’ve a close enough relationship to be honest with one another and we’ve been talking about his career, certainly when it’s getting towards the end, for the last year.

“So, we’re realists as far as that’s concerned. I’ve no doubt we’ll chew the fat on that over the next coming days.”

The Irish head coach was upbeat about this team’s potential for further growth.

“I sure hope so. I think it was a fantastic campaign for this group and yeah, we’re continuing on from where we left off and trying to improve as a group.

“But we all know things change year on year as far as personnel’s concerned and injuries and whatnot, staff leaving, staff coming in, new staff.”

Interestingly, although the last-ditch 23-22 defeat against England a week ago denied this Irish team a tilt at successive Grand Slams as well as titles, Farrell also said: “I reckon the loss last week will be the best thing for us as a group because some of these lads, subconsciously now, not through their own doing, they’ve been used to winning. They have, but the special thing about the Six Nations, and why the Grand Slams are so hard to do that it changes week on week like we all know.

“Some people are fighting for their lives and for this group, for some of the lads who are not used to losing at all, I don’t know, I’ll have to ask them, they get to point where they’re turning up for games actually thinking ‘we’re doing it’.

“You’re never doing it. You’re never doing it in the Six Nations because things changes week to week and that Test match last week was a proper Test match in Twickenham and so it should be. We’ll learn the lessons from that and that will be powerful for us going forward like this one was tonight.

“This was a proper Test match,” he added. “Scotland are a great side. I thought they were tenacious, they were tough and I actually thought we played bloody well. We came out of the blocks in the second half and that was magnificent. The power, the pace we put into the game, but we couldn’t get over the line but that’s how it should be.

“Scotland have got a lot to say in that and that was a proper Test match where trophies were on the line and the last two weeks for us is going to be a great learning.”

Ireland eventually pierced the Scottish resistance with a clever short-range penalty when Ronan Kelleher tapped but deftly pulled the ball back for Andrew Porter to finish emphatically.

“Who’s taking credit for it?” said Farrell rhetorically. “We set it up well didn’t we? Honestly, we’d three set plays from tap five metres before the line, one of them that we’ve not done. We’d not done any throughout and we’ve been practising day in, day out to get right.”

At which point O’Mahony interjected: “We made a b****cks of that one.”

“Quite literally, we made a bollocks of it yesterday in the captain’s run here, didn’t we?” agreed Farrell lightheartedly.

“But we set it up nicely because the first one was direct, the second one, I suppose, they thought the directness was coming again but a bit of subtlety, Andrew Porter charging on the inside was a nice one for us but we’ve still got one in the bag.”

For O’Mahony, the memories of this special day will be all positive.

“It means the world to me,” he said when asked what it meant to play for his country.

“I have said that lots of times before to players and media, it’s a special thing to be picked for your country and you’ve got to treat it with the utmost respect.

“As I said, it was tough week. We didn’t want to lose last week but we knew we needed to get back on the horse and put in a better performance.

“Coming back home, Championship on the line, the whole lot – it was an important game for us and I felt the pressure, felt the nerves. It was a big day for us.”

“It’s hard because it is so special. It’s nice, I have to say. It’s a rare feeling, you know?

“I talked to Willie Bennett who is leaving us, he has been around a long time as our masseur, 35 years he has spent with the Irish team.

“Big chunks of that, we weren’t competing for Championships, and there were chunks of my career where it was the same, the last games were dead rubbers.

“To win a Championship like that is not something we ever take for granted. As you saw in our performance today, it certainly wasn’t something we took for granted.

“It was a proper Test match, special day.”

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