Cahir's Tommy O'Donnell wins his 150th Munster cap

Tommy O'Donnell

Tommy O'Donnell in action against Racing 92 in Saturday's Champions Cup tie at Thomond Park, when he won his 150th cap for Munster in the 14-7 win.

Cahir's Tommy O’Donnell won his 150th cap for Munster on Saturday, helping the province beat Racing 92 by 14-7 in the Champions Cup Pool 4 game at Thomond Park.   

In doing so he became only the third player of the current squad to reach the 150 mark, after Billy Holland and Ian Keatley.

The back row first took to the rugby field at Clanwilliam FC, going on to represent Ireland Youths, U-19 and U-20, and was part of the U-20 Grand Slam winning team of 2007.

A graduate of the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy, by the age of 27 Tommy hit the century mark in a red jersey, crossing for a try against Treviso in Cork in 2015 having also made his debut at Irish Independent Park – then Musgrave Park – against Scarlets in 2007.

With the likes of Wallace, Coughlan and Leamy all in situ early on, O’Donnell had to bide his time. 

Featuring in Munster’s famous win over Australia at Thomond Park in 2010, it wasn’t until 2011/12 that his huge work ethic and meticulous attention to detail paid serious dividends, making 19 first team appearances that season, including his first European cap against Scarlets and his first European start against Ulster in the quarter final.

The following season, despite two injury-enforced spells on the sidelines, the flanker was named Munster Player of the Year, beating off stiff competition from Dave Kilcoyne and Simon Zebo with 21 impressive displays, in which he bagged four tries.

It was no surprise that Joe Schmidt and Ireland came calling that summer, with the Tipperary man winning the first of his 12 international caps to date against the USA in Texas.

O’Donnell has had more than his fair share of injury setbacks over the seasons, most notably a hip dislocation that kept him out of contention for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

Yet each time, dogged determination has seen the 30-year-old come back fitter, stronger and hungrier from everything thrown his way.

Still a key figure in the Munster pack with his trademark explosive runs, perhaps the proudest of his previous 149 appearances before Saturday was when he captained Munster for the first time on yet another historic night at Thomond Park. 

Despite missing most of their international contingent, O’Donnell led an inspired Munster performance against the Maori All Blacks last November where, unlike 2008, there was to be no late heartbreak against a New Zealand side.  

Fittingly, Tommy was the man to boot the ball gleefully into touch, as Munster won 27-14.