RONAN O’GARA is back in Ireland to enjoy some well-deserved adulation, with his testimonial dinner set to take place in Cork this evening.
The former Munster and Ireland out-half has settled into his new life as a coach at Top 14 club Racing Metro with characteristic ease and says he is content with the lifestyle in France.
Looking back on his playing days in Ireland, O’Gara admitted that Munster will always have a special place in his thoughts. Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk this morning, the 36-year-old said he is thankful for the times he had with his home province.
“It was a love affair, but unfortunately I’m finished now. I played for a great team with great supporters and great teammates. I don’t know if you can ask for any more, that’s as simple as I can make it.
It was that special. I get goose pimples sitting here thinking about it, because it was a special dressing room, special players. At the time, you don’t appreciate it but when you leave it, by God you do, because it’s a wonderful club and it has changed my whole life for better without a doubt.”
O’Gara highlighted the big changes he has encountered in transitioning from being a player to a coach, with the increased demands on his time something that has taken getting used to. The Cork man also highlighted the ambitions he holds for his new career.
“It’s very different. I’d be in before 8am and wouldn’t be gone until 6pm. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s very different for me. My plan is to become a head coach in one of the top clubs in five years time. The mental side of the thing fascinates me. The mind is so powerful, it probably exceeds all other aspects.”
The former Munster out-half has settled into Parisian life with ease. ©INPHO/Harold Cunningham.
O’Gara says that he dearly misses playing the game, but has learned to be appreciative of what he has experienced rather than focusing on what he can’t do now.
“Do I miss game days? Yes I do. Do I miss it when I see the Racing boys run onto the pitch and there’s a penalty with two minutes to go and you’ve an opportunity to win the game if you kick, would I love to kick it? Yes I would. If you didn’t feel those things you wouldn’t be natural.
“But I’m so appreciative and grateful for the last 16 years. If there was one message I’d give, that would be it; that it’s been unbelievable. I remember being at Donal Walsh’s funeral, and his dream was to travel the world. That was his dream, but I’ve been living that dream for 16 years.
The message that he was spreading and is continuing to spread would have hit me. You’d want to be a small bit appreciative and thoughtful and cop yourself on in saying ‘This is a hard decision’.”
O’Gara expressed his sorrow at hearing the news of Galway hurler Niall Donoghue’s death last night, and said the reaction has been typical of the close-knit sporting community in Ireland.
“There was more tragic news in Galway last night and it’s very,very sad. I think it touches everyone when there’s tragic circumstances like this, because we’re a small country. All the sporting traditions are a family, Irish people are tight and they care about each other.
“That’s what you miss when you move to Paris, because you’re a nobody there.Here, there’s a serious community, a parochial effect. It’s one of the things that’s great about this country.”
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