This Fascinating Ronan O’Gara Story Shows He Was Always Destined To Be A Top Coach
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Former Ireland and Munster outhalf Ronan O’Gara is still just 43-years-old but following some hugely successful spells at Racing 92 and the Crusaders – he’s already considered one of the very best coaches in the world.
As a player, O’Gara wasn’t the biggest, he wasn’t the most athletic but he had one of the best rugby brains the game has ever seen. He also took great pride every time he wore a red or green jersey. He felt it was his responsibility to put in a performance every week.
O’Gara studied tape meticulously and trained like no other. Perfection – that’s all he asked for. Both from him and every player that stood alongside him. And you can imagine that’s what he expects from his players now as a coach.
And it appears the signs were always there that O’Gara was going to be a top coach someday. Back in 2008 Munster were out to prove a point. After winning their first-ever Heineken Cup in 2006 they were back in a second final in three years.
It was time to prove to the world Munster weren’t just a flash in the pan.
Alan Quinlan brilliantly recalled the night before in the final in a column for the Irish Independent a while back, detailing how O’Gara played such a pivotal role in motivating players like himself before such a nervy game.
“Time after time, he would talk about that responsibility and would get guys to believe in themselves – guys like me,” Quinlan wrote.
“And that was where we were on this Friday evening in 2008, the night before the Heineken Cup final.
“Two years earlier, Munster had finally got across the line and won a competition we had pushed hard in for seven seasons. Now we were back in another final but for me there was a difference.
“This time I was starting. In 2006, I was a sub, coming back from injury. And the extra responsibility freaked me out a bit. That and Thierry Dusautoir.
Toulouse have this aura,” I said. “Dusautoir is an unbelievable player.”
“Fair enough,” he said, “he is good but so are you, you can dominate at this level and can dominate this match. This is where you can excel. We all have little doubts, pre-match nerves. I am nervous too.”
O’Gara’s nervousness, however, wasn’t in his own ability, he was nervous as to whether or not his teammates had the same hunger he had.
“But ROG’s nervousness was a little different to mine. He never worried about whether we were good enough.
“He fretted over whether the same drive and hunger was in the team.
“In the semi-final against Saracens at Coventry that year, we had escaped with murder. We all knew it. We nearly lost it late on which would have been the biggest underachievement ever and afterwards Declan Kidney gave it to us. And then ROG spoke up.
“If we don’t get our act together from Monday morning onwards, we won’t win the final,” he said.”
A fascinating insight into the mindset of one of the world’s very best that shows his coaching skills were there long before he retired.