Paul O'Connell's return to action is major boost for Munster - and Irish rugby too - ahead of their Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins in April.
The 33-year-old was instrumental in Munster's 22-0 victory over Connacht in Cork on Saturday night, polishing off an encouraging performance with his first try since 2009.
O'Connell, capped 85 times by Ireland, suffered a reoccurrence of back injury in October, resulting in surgery which ruled the second row out of Ireland's Six Nations campaign.
He turned out for Munster's A side and Young Munster in the weeks leading up to his return, and it paid dividends as he managed to complete 80 minutes, understandably tiring in the final stages of the RaboDirect PRO12 clash.
It took 11 minutes for O'Connell to announce his return to action as a Munster scrum led to the ball being spread across the field, with the No5 on hand to take a pass from Cathal Sheridan and touch down despite Connacht's best efforts to deny the Munster talisman.
The home side's opening try had stemmed from a superb O'Connell catch from a lineout, allowing Munster to peg Connacht back and look to pick apart a gap or barge their way over the line before their captain struck in ruthless style.
It would have been no disgrace if O'Connell had faded in the second half, but in typical fashion, he dug deep, epitomised by one barnstorming run which saw him out-muscle three Connacht opponents before falling just short of the line.
The Ireland veteran had lost none of his competiveness as he clashed with Connacht's Mike McCarthy, who was featured in Declan Kidney's second row during a disappointing Six Nations campaign.
For Munster head coach Penny, it is a welcome boost ahead of their European quarter-final against reigning Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop on 7 April.
Munster have struggled at times this season under their new coach, who is trying to implement his vision for the province, and O'Connell's presence noticeably lifted his team-mates against Connacht.
"Having Paul O'Connell back has lifted everyone. Paulie is such an iconic figure. I used a Maori word during the week when I was chatting about him. Back home we use the term manu - basically if someone has manu they have real respect and presence," Penny said in the Irish Independent.
"You either have it or you don't, and not many people in the world have it. But Paulie has."
O'Connell's return is superb timing with the Munster's talismanic leader already injecting a fresh wave of confidence throughout Rob Penny's side, and while they aren't expected to beat Quins, a positive performance would help lay the foundations for the 2013/14 campaign.