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Peter O'Mahony: A Born Leader, Ready to Shine

Peter O'Mahony: A Born Leader, Ready to Shine
By Cian Tracey Updated
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Watching a non-contact Ireland training session at the University of Limerick two weeks ago, one player and one aspect of this player stood head and shoulders above the rest.

O'Mahony at yesterday's team announcement. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Rory Best had been named captain of Ireland's North American tour but with the ticking time bomb that is Dylan Hartley, his suspension paved the way for Best to travel to Australia with the Lions. Enter Peter O'Mahony.

It is worth reminding ourselves that O'Mahony only made his Ireland debut in last year's Six Nations campaign. His prominent rise has been such that Les Kiss had little hesitation in handing the Munster player the captaincy and in doing so over looked far more experienced internationals in the likes of Andrew Trimble and Mike Ross.

During the get together on a cold and blustery afternoon in Limerick, a simple handling error by O'Mahony in the warm up evoked a ferociously angered response from the player. Little excuse was made for the conditions or the fact that the team had just begun the session - such is the competitive nature of the Cork man.

O'Mahony is a born winner and his early successes with his school PBC and club side, Cork Constitution have helped develop a player who on Saturday will become one of the youngest to lead Ireland in a Test.

His previous experience as a captain dates back to 2007 when he captained the Ireland U18 side and soon followed that by achieving the same feat with the 20s side. With key players away on international duty at the beginning of the 2011 season, Tony McGahan put his trust in the then, 21 year-old.

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A crushing 45-10 defeat at the hands of the Ospreys in the semi final of the Pro 12 semi final that same season put a dent in his credentials as a captain but in typically strong minded fashion he bounced back stronger than ever.

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O Mahony's performances for Munster over the past couple of seasons have been outstanding - so much so that he has become one of the first names on Rob Penney's team sheets. This weekend against the USA, his versatility is again evident when he will start at number 8 - a position which isn't all that unfamiliar for O'Mahony.

He was a key part of PBC's 2007 Munster schools cup success when he lined out at number 8. Having to compete with Denis Leamy saw him switch to blindside flanker, a position which the majority of the rugby public have become accustomed to seeing him play. Leamy's untimely retirement appeared to create the ideal opening for him but the resurgence of James Coughlan has meant that O'Mahony has remained at 6 for Munster.

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O'Mahony made his Ireland debut just last year. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Tomorrow evening, Ireland will come up against an American side who sense blood. USA are fully aware of how big an opportunity this is for them to claim a major scalp while promoting the game within a country that has yet to buy into its culture.

USA have a particularly potent back row that should provide a real test to their relatively inexperienced Irish counterparts. Northampton's Samu Manoa, Stade Francais' Scott LaValla and captain Todd Clever boost plenty of power and experience. With the positivity coming out of the American camp, O'Mahony will be expected to ensure that there are no slip ups from a young Irish side who will still be expected to win.

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It remains to be seen what position O'Mahony will end up in the long term. A strong ball carrier with an eye for a gap, O'Mahony could well push 32 year-old James Coughlan for the number 8 position at Munster come next season. With much expected of CJ Stander who endured a frustrating first season, Munster fans will be hoping or rather expecting that the Springbok makes a real push to cement his place in the starting XV. With player of the year Tommy O'Donnell looking set to own the number 7 jersey for the foreseeable future, it is not inconceivable to see O'Mahony shifting to number 8 at some point next season. With Stander equally as comfortable at the tail of the scrum, both players have the ability to interchange.

Attentions will be firmly on Houston tomorrow night with Joe Schmidt casting his eye over his new team for the first time. O'Mahony not only has a massive opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the autumn test side, but his credentials as an eventual Irish captain will also be put under careful scrutiny.

A fiercely competitive guy who demands high standards from himself and from those around him - O'Mahony is capable of achieving both.

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Cian Tracey is a freelance sports journalist currently writing for The Irish Independent, Examiner, The Sun and Balls.ie.

Follow him on Twitter.

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