468 minutes under his belt already this season and seven appearances which included a start against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup last weekend, Jack O’Donoghue is exactly where he wants to be right now.
The majority of the 2018/19 season was a complete write-off as O’Donoghue was recovering from damage to his Medial collateral ligament (MCL) and Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) he suffered in the PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster in May 2018.
He made his comeback the following February. Nine months of difficult rehabilitation yielded seven appearances at the end of last season.
Now, with a full preseason under his belt, O’Donoghue is looking to get back to his best after what has been a disrupted 18 months.
“I’m going well,” O’Donoghue said at a PRO14 media event in Cardiff.
“I had a full pre-season under my belt, which was massive. Getting the few games before the end of the season was great confidence-wise. Once I hit the pre-season it wasn’t a matter of having an injury, it was very much back to the way things were and I’m very happy with how the season has gone. Hopefully, now I can keep pushing guys who are in the team for spots.”
Munster’s back-row is incredibly competitive which is highlighted by how the Waterford man was not selected in the matchday 23 for the opening European clash with the Ospreys before being brought straight back into the starting XV a week later against Racing 92.
The 25-year-old, who has two Ireland caps to his name, will be hoping that he can get back into the international reckoning but of course, it won’t be easy considering the wealth of talent littered across the four provinces in the back-row positions.
Ultimately, his focus is on Munster, but it’s obvious that if he can be entrusted to start in the biggest of European games for the southern province, those who make the decisions in Lansdowne Road will undoubtedly take notice.
“Look you have to have goals, you have to have drive to be better. At the moment, it’s very much trying to get a starting place in the Champions Cup team and keep working on what I’m doing and build on the start of the season I had so far.
“But look, if that (Ireland) happens on the back of a good performance, it happens. Certainly, at the moment it’s very much focus on this weekend and the next few games coming up.”
Like many of his teammates, O’Donoghue is getting up to speed with the new skills-based approach from new senior coach Stephen Larkham. The versatile backrower admits to being “incredibly impressed” by both Larkham and new forwards coach Graham Rowntree.
“Incredibly impressed by both of them. Steve came in preseason so we had a good few weeks with him before we got started but he certainly put pressure on us to improve our skillset. I think we’re slowly starting to see that.
“With Graham coming in after the World Cup, I think he brought a new energy to the forwards. He’s finding his feet. We’re just building on what has been there before but it’s certainly looking positive.”