Peter O'Mahony and Tadhg Beirne
Peter O’Mahony (left) and Munster team-mate Tadhg Beirne were standout performers in Ireland’s series win

Saturday mornings are not supposed to be that heart-racing.

Generally speaking only St Patrick has the power to prompt a nationwide urge for a pint before 11am, but if it’s not the patron saint’s time of the year then Peter O’Mahony offers a pretty good alternative.

The Munster behemoth’s tears upon the realisation that Ireland were out of the woods and about to win a series in New Zealand were the latest in a long list of occasions when his emotions spoke to everyone who holds Irish rugby dear.

O’Mahony’s heart-on-sleeve approach is so appreciated mostly because it is the one thing that the common fan can relate to.

You don’t know what it’s like to win a turnover under your own posts against the All Blacks, or kick a 50:22 with the outside of your boot in the middle of a tight game, but you do know what it’s like to celebrate a moment, or a win, that you’ve yearned after for years.

Of course it meant more to him that it possibly could have to any individual fan. O’Mahony has lived it; the 60-0 hammering in Hamilton a decade ago, Aaron Cruden’s last-gasp conversion a year later to steal a win in Dublin.

More than any other player in the current Ireland squad he has been written off, told his best days are behind him. Such hot takes have been emphatically dispatched, but you do wonder if there was a time that maybe even the man himself thought his chances of winning a series in New Zealand were gone.

From his celebrations, you suspect he might have done.

This was a standalone triumph. Not a step or even a leap in the right direction on the road to the World Cup, but a series win that is in its own right the greatest achievement in the history of Irish rugby.

O’Mahony has seen enough to know exactly how precious the moment was.

Throughout his tenure Andy Farrell has been keen to reiterate his belief that international rugby should not be viewed through the prism of four-year World Cup cycles.

Even still, with the World Cup moving into view it was impossible not to link Ireland’s historic achievement to the idea that this team looks capable of achieving things in next year’s tournament that no Irish side has done before.

Johnny Sexton
Captain Johnny Sexton was superb as Ireland fought back from 1-0 down to win their first series in New Zealand

Looking ahead is not necessarily a bad thing. No-one is saying this is as good as it’s going to get for Ireland, who’s to say it doesn’t get better from here?

The exciting group of young players who came on the tour but did not feature in the Test series will have another season under their belts. It’s hoped that James Hume, Gavin Coombes, Mike Lowry et al will continue to make compelling cases for selection that keep what is at this stage a very settled starting side honest.

Similarly in the world of sport, it doesn’t take much for the tide to turn the wrong way. Let’s not forget that this tour started with two comprehensive defeats.

At that stage the bubble of positivity that had engulfed Ireland in the last 18 months was threatening to burst. Was this to be another humbling southern hemisphere tour that suggested previous notions of a side moving up the world rankings were in fact delusions of grandeur?

The narrative can change quickly. Ireland will host the world champions in November, France and England in the Six Nations – there are plenty of banana skins in Ireland’s way.

Even before then, we’re due at least another three rounds of ‘what happens at fly-half when Johnny Sexton is not around?’ and ‘when will Ireland’s lack of front row depth be exposed?’.

They’re both valid questions and one day down the line we will inevitably get our answers.

But they are not questions for right now. Not after Ireland have won a series against the All Blacks in New Zealand – something that for so long appeared achievable only in theory.

Embrace the moment and enjoy the fact that, right now, nothing is beyond this Ireland team.


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