Paul O'Connell got back into action with Munster as he ended 10 months in injury exile by playing the final 25 minutes in the 16-9 Magners League win over Cardiff Blues in Limerick.
The 2009 British & Irish Lions captain last played for his province in the Heineken Cup in January. A groin injury, and subsequent complications, meant his last game at this level had been for Ireland against Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations.
Having warmed up in an AIL match with Young Munster the previous weekend he returned to the Munster pack in the second half of a very tough encounter with the Amlin Challenge Cup holders and help steer his side to a victory that keeps them four points clear at the top of the table.
O'Connell's return is a timely boost for the double Heineken Cup winners ahead of their back-to-back European clashes with reigning Magners League champions the Ospreys over the next two weekends. That game could bring O'Conell into direct opposition with his Lions second row partner Alun Wyn Jones, who is captaining the Ospreys this season.
The player had described his injury 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.