AFTER AN EXTREMELY frustrating and protracted injury lay-off, Munster and Ireland talisman Paul O’Connell will return to competitive action tomorrow night in Limerick.
The giant second row star will line out at Thomond Park for his club Young Munster against city rivals Shannon (7.30pm).
The Reds captain has been sidelined since Ireland’s Six Nations clash with Scotland in March as a result of a long-term groin injury. He missed the latter stages of Munster’s Heineken Cup campaign and Ireland’s summer tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The 70-times capped international has suffered a number of setbacks – included repeated misdiagnoses – in his attempts to get back to full fitness, but appears to have put his problems behind him.
O’Connell only returned to full-contact training three weeks ago and, if he comes through tomorrow’s match with no complications, could come into the mix for Munster’s Magners League meeting with Cardiff on Saturday week and their Heineken Cup back-to-back assignments with the Ospreys on December 12 and 18.
It is more good news for Tony McGahan who includes Tomás O’Leary and Lifeimi Mafi in the panel to visit Newport.
Manager Shaun Payne says Munster are very pleased with the return of O’Connell. He told the Irish Independent:
Obviously, Paulie is delighted. There is nothing worse for him than having to sit on the sidelines and watch. It’s been a very frustrating time for him since last year’s Six Nations. But now he’s bursting to get back into it.
He’s had no more set-backs over the last couple of months and his return is a good four weeks ahead of schedule.
This weekend will be another step and if he progresses past that, then Cardiff will be the next step.