It’s 18 months since Jack O’Donoghue damaged ACL and MCL ligaments in his knee when competing at a ruck for Munster against Leinster in a Guinness PRO14 semi-final.
That he was still being asked about his recovery at Wednesday’s PRO14 media event in Cardiff is probably testament to how serious an issue it was at the time and a nod to the nine months it took form to return to competitive action.
“I’m going well,” he explained at the City of Cardiff Stadium where this season’s final will be held next June. “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.
O’Donoghue spoke eloquently about the injury and the rehab process during the time he was out. He used his spare time by taking on a Masters course and he tried to work on his aerial game even when the leg was still restricting the work he could do.
The mental side of playing again can often be overlooked. All the training and studying in the world can’t prepare a player for the moment when they put their body – and, specifically, the part of it that was damaged – on the line again.
That wasn’t an issue for him.
“To be honest, when you are on the pitch and there are so many other factors going on, it isn’t really there at all. It’s quite easy to block it out and get into the game. When you are carrying or tackling it doesn’t really come into it. So in terms of that it’s fine.”
His availability again offers Johann van Graan a versatile option across the back row. O’Donoghue has started games at 6, 7 and 8 for the province. He featured at openside against Racing 92 last week but he seems easy enough about where his talents may be put to best use.
“You are always trying to focus on one spot but it is a squad game at the end of the day and you want to be in a position to get into a starting Champions Cup team whether that is at 6, 7 or 8. You have to put your hand up and play where you are needed, not where you want to.”
He’s still only 25 so there is scope to make up for any lost time. As for other goals, Ireland is always the goal for players doing their thing for the provinces and the Waterford man has already worn the green jersey against Canada and Japan a few years ago.
“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 (Ireland) happens on the back of good performances, it happens. Certainly, at the moment it’s very much focus on this weekend (against Edinburgh in the PRO14) and the next few games coming up.”