Paul O'Connell's long wait to get back into a Munster jersey finally ended at the weekend as he came on to play the final 25 minutes of the Magners League clash with Cardiff Blues.
It was a timely return for the Munster talisman, who led them to Heineken Cup glory in 2008, as he can now bid for a place in the pack against the Ospreys in their back-to-back Pool 3 games over the next two weekends.
Munster currently lead the Ospreys by a point at the top of the Pool table and the outcome of the next two games will have a significant impact on who stays on track for a tilt at a place in the 2011 Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.
O'Connell described the injury that kept him out of rugby for almost eight months as being the most frustrating period of his life. A groin problem was eventually diagnosed as an infection of the pubic symphysis, and, in the course of his treatment, he underwent a lengthy series of antibiotics that left him utterly drained.
He was only able to start running again in mid-August and not only did the injury force him to miss Munster's quarter and semi-final games in the Heineken Cup last season, but also their Magners league quarter-final clash with Leinster, Ireland's summer tour to New Zealand and the recent November internationals.
"It was great to have Paul back and he showed some great touches, but he's got a bit of a way to go yet, obviously," said Munster coach Tony McGahan.
Having warmed up in an AIL match with Young Munster the previous weekend he returned to a tumultuous welcome from the Thomond Park faithful to help steer his side to a 16-9 victory that put them four points clear at the top of the Magners League table.
His last outing in a Munster jersey had been in the final Heineken Cup Pool match of last season against Northampton Saints on 22 January. He then played for Ireland in the RBS 6 Nations, making his last appearance in the Triple Crown defeat to Scotland in March.