Paul O’Connell identified Peter O’Mahony’s leadership qualities at early juncture.
So after a week of pundits singing the praises of the Munster man and extolling his virtues as a possible captain, Warren Gatland finally confirmed that Peter O’Mahony will lead the Lions out at Eden Park, Aukland on Saturday.
The Corkman will become the 11th Irishman to captain a Lions Test side and follows on from Brian O’Driscoll (2005 New Zealand) and Paul O’Connell (2009 South Africa).
Other Lions Test captains include Ciaran Fitzgerald (1983 NZ), Willie John McBride (1974 SA), Tom Kiernan (1968 SA), Ronnie Dawson (1959 NZ & AUS), Robin Thompson (1955 SA), Karl Mullen (1950 NZ & AUS), Sammy Walker (1938 SA), Tommy Smyth (1910 SA).
Having played very little rugby this season up until a huge performance against England in the 6 Nations, O’Mahony looked like an outsider for a place in the Lions squad.
However, his Trojan efforts for Ireland and Munster earned him a spot on the tour. O’Mahony’s leadership qualities didn’t go unnoticed by a certain Paul O’Connell during his time playing alongside him at Munster.
In his autobiography ‘The Battle’, Paul O’Connell related how even before O’Mahony had turned 21, he had been marked as a future Munster captain.
Peter O’Mahony was coming through and we had seen leadership from him from day one. I could tell by the way he trained – he was hungry. You could see it in his carries – he was twisting, turning, kicking with his socks around his ankles, doing everything to get over the line.
The first day I met him he was just a kid in the academy and he was going around shaking people’s hands. We’d just won a game with Ireland and he came up to me
‘Well done the other day – I was up there at it.’
I was taken aback by his confidence. It was impressive, and seeing a character like him in the academy was encouraging. I don’t think he was even twenty-one when I had him down as future Munster captain.
Warren Gatland is a coach that requires huge standards from his players. The Lions coach described O’Mahony as bringing ‘Munster Mongrel’ to the touring party.
O’Connell also describes how O’Mahony and himself decided to liven up a Munster training session that was falling a bit flat.
There were times when I felt like I needed to rev things up. I remember, during a non-contact session, pulling Peter O’Mahony aside.
‘The two of us will go full contact here now.’
‘Are you serious?’
I didn’t think he would take me quite so literally. He went straight out and spear-tackled Simon Zebo. After that, we had a really sharp session.
Spear tackles aside, we hope O’Mahony will up the tempo on Saturday and cause problems for the All Blacks in the loose and also in the line out.
Roll on Saturday.