O'Mahony and Murray both offered new Munster contracts

O'Mahony and Murray both offered new Munster contracts

PETER O’MAHONY AND Conor Murray look increasingly likely to play on with Munster and Ireland into next season after the province offered both players new contracts.

Ireland captain O’Mahony and scrum-half Murray, both 34, are currently on IRFU central contracts that expire at the end of this season.

The union had made a decision not to renew those central deals, even with O’Mahony becoming the national team skipper, placing the ball in Munster’s court in terms of contract negotiations with both players.

Initially, it seemed that Munster might not offer the experienced duo provincial contracts but The 42 understands that the picture has now changed, with O’Mahony and Murray both offered Munster deals topped up by the IRFU.

It’s understood the initial hesitation on Munster’s part was due to a combination of financial concerns, as the province would have to absorb two big salaries into their budget having essentially paid nothing while the players have been on IRFU central contracts, and also with a view to the ongoing refresh of their playing squad.

Murray has been competing with 24-year-old Craig Casey for first-choice status at scrum-half in Munster and there had been a sense that the province might not offer Murray a deal.

It’s understood that O’Mahony’s initial contract discussion with Munster several months ago did not go well and that no offer was forthcoming at that point. The Cork man stood down as Munster captain in November and was linked with a possible exit at the end of this season. But O’Mahony’s importance to the province was underlined when he returned from injury for their Champions Cup win away to Toulon in January.

Meanwhile, O’Mahony and Murray have remained crucial players in Ireland head coach Andy Farrell’s eyes. Both featured in all five of last year’s World Cup games, with blindside flanker O’Mahony in the first-choice starting XV.


O'Mahony and Murray helped Munster to URC success last season. James Crombie / INPHO

O’Mahony was appointed as the new Ireland captain in January, while Farrell remains a big fan of the nous Murray brings.

The scrum-half is no longer first-choice at number nine for Ireland, with Jamison Gibson-Park occupying that role, but Murray has played an influential role as his back-up. Murray featured off the bench in the win away to France in the current Six Nations and is expected to return to the matchday 23 versus Wales this weekend.

While Casey has been pushing to move past Murray in the pecking order, it seems that Farrell is convinced Murray still has a key part to play. The Ireland boss has appeared unconvinced by other scrum-half options around the country, with only Connacht’s Caolin Blade featuring in wider training squads.

Murray will turn 35 in April but has stated his determination to play on with Munster and Ireland, while O’Mahony won’t be 35 until September. The abrasive back row has had some big injuries in his career, while Murray previously had a tough period with a neck issue, but both players can look at the example of Johnny Sexton captaining Ireland until the age of 38 when it comes to longevity.

So while it first seemed that Munster might not offer O’Mahony and Murray provincial contracts to retain them into next season, the picture has changed recently and both players have now been offered provincial deals.

It is believed that the contract offers will be co-funded by the IRFU, even if they are not central contracts. Munster would absorb a portion of O’Mahony and Murray’s deals into their budget while the IRFU tops up the remainder.

It also remains to be seen how long the deals will run for if both players are happy to finalise.

As things stand, it seems that nothing is signed but it looks likely that O’Mahony and Murray will both be playing with Munster and Ireland into next season.

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