Jump to main content


Penney Praises ‘Terrific’ O’Gara

Penney Praises ‘Terrific’ O’Gara

Munster head coach Rob Penney was fulsome in his praise of Ronan O’Gara after the Corkman produced yet another heroic display on the biggest stage of European club rugby.

There were emotional scenes on the Stade de la Mosson pitch as Munster bowed out of this season’s Heineken Cup, going down fighting in a 16-10 defeat to much-fancied Clermont Auvergne on Saturday evening.

With tears visible on his face, the province’s veteran out-half Ronan O’Gara was joined by eldest son Rua as he mingled with his team-mates and saluted the travelling support after what could prove to be his final appearance at this level.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

The 36-year-old once again showed his class during the high octane semi-final, kicking Munster into an early lead and it was his perfectly weighted grubber kick that teed up Denis Hurley for the only try of the second half.

O’Gara was clearly revelling in the pressure moments late on as Munster hunted for a match-winning seven-pointer, but Clermont managed to hold on to set up an all-French final against Toulon at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, May 18.

His number 10’s defiant display undoubtedly left a mark on Rob Penney with the Munster boss saying: “He was terrific. Rog loves the big moments, obviously, and he’s been great for us since he’s come back from Ireland camp.

“He’s had a clear image of what he’s trying to achieve, and what he wants to do and he’s such a passionate Munster man.”

Asked about the prospect of O’Gara hanging up his boots, Penney replied: “Look, Rog has got his own decisions to make. Of course, he’ll be a part of Munster Rugby as long as he wants to be.”

The player himself, following his record 10th semi-final appearance, spoke of his pride in how Munster went toe-to-toe with a Clermont side that had registered seven straight wins since the tournament began back in October.

“Defeat is extremely hard to take after you have put so much into a game like that. But it is winner takes all in a semi-final,” admitted O’Gara.

“This is an unbelievable competition and it was an incredible atmosphere. It was a fantastic occasion to be a part of, but the only reason we play is to win.

“There was some serious resilience from Munster and I am proud to be a part of the team. We are growing and getting better as a team, but we gave Clermont too much of a start (leading 13-3 at half-time).

“When we come away from home you ask for character from a team and we certainly showed that – we gave our all.”

The two-time Heineken Cup winner remains top of the competition’s points-scoring and appearances charts, and he was acknowledged with a special award in 2010 which recognised him as the best player to grace the first 15 years of European club rugby’s premier tournament.

To many, O’Gara’s demeanour and actions after the final whistle suggested that he is bidding farewell to life in the famous red jersey, but he said he will take some time out to decide on his playing future.

“It’s not the time for me to be thinking or talking about retirement. Today our sole focus was on Clermont. It was a massive occasion. You’d be disrespectful to your team-mates if you were thinking any other way.

“I was so focused on this. I love coming to France. This competition has given me the best of my rugby memories and made me appreciate rugby so much. I’ll sleep on it until the end of the season.”

O’Gara’s long-time team-mate, Paul O’Connell, was left ruing their failure to convert pressure into points as they put Clermont on the back foot towards the end of both halves.

O’Gara and O’Connell were the driving forces in Munster’s rousing quarter-final victory away to Harlequins and the dynamic duo almost inspired another famous result on the road on Saturday.

“We had a genuine chance of winning it. We spent plenty enough time in their 22 and 10 metres from their line, particularly just before half-time, and a good few times in the second half,” conceded the lynchpin lock.

“We started well with our maul and got our three points but then we let them impose themselves on us and we had to fight and battle for every little thing we got. The boys are disappointed we didn’t win it. We had our chances and we didn’t take them.”