Ronan O’Gara’s retirement from professional rugby brings to an end an achievement-packed career that saw him dominate matches in Ireland and around the world in the colours of Cork Constitution, Munster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.
A consistently influential figure for both Munster and Ireland for almost 14 years, Ronan O’Gara leaves a legacy to Irish rugby and Irish sport, in general, that will live long in the memory.
The Corkman used his first column in the Irish Examiner newspaper today to confirm the news that he is to take up a coaching position with French club Racing Métro 92, as he moves from the playing to coaching ranks.
“I have ambitions in the years ahead to coach at a high level and, with this in mind, I can confirm now that I will be joining Racing Métro’s coaching staff in July,” he wrote.
“I am trusting my instinct and it is telling me now is the appropriate time to stop (playing). Could I have played on for another year? Of course I could, but I feel it’s getting harder and harder every season and i want to leave the game at the height of my powers.
“Had I already decided to retire before the (Heineken Cup semi-final) loss in Montpellier last month? I kind of knew. My lads are gone. My boys in the team are gone.
“I retire as Ireland’s most-capped player but the decision of a certain Leinster man to keep playing suggests it won’t be for long. Time to hang up the boots Brian (O’Driscoll)!
“Not being able to close out that Ireland career in my own way is a regret but one that was beyond my control. The only thing I’d say would be that the most pleasing thing was winning the number 10 jersey back for the 2011 World Cup. That confirmed the belief I had in myself and the doggedness I had about myself.”
The much decorated out-half, 36, has called time on a medal and trophy-laden career that includes a Grand Slam, four Triple Crowns, two Heineken Cups, three Celtic Leagues and a Celtic Cup.
According to the Paris club’s website, O’Gara will ‘join director of rugby Christophe Mombet and coaches as a consultant to pass on his experience’ to the youth set-up, while he will also be assistant coach to the senior squad, specialising in kicking.
RONAN O’GARA –
Born: San Diego, USA, March 7, 1977
Weight: 85kg/13st 4lb
Ireland Caps: 128
Ireland Points: 1083 (16 tries, 176 conversions, 202 penalties and 15 drop goals)
Munster Caps: 240
Munster Points: 2625
Lions Caps: 16 (2 Tests)
Lions Points: 124 (3 tries, 32 conversions and 15 penalties)
CAREER FACTS & FIGURES:
– O’Gara retires from the game as the record points scorer for Munster and Ireland, the country’s most-capped player and the leading all-time scorer in both the Heineken Cup (1365 points) and the RBS 6 Nations (557 points)
– He memorably won the Grand Slam and Six Nations Championship with Ireland in 2009 – landing the match-winning drop goal in the deciding game against Wales – as well as four Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009
– His list of honours with his beloved Munster includes two Heineken Cup successes (2006 and 2008), three Celtic League titles (2003, 2009 and 2011), a Celtic Cup (2005) and three Interprovincial Championship crowns (1999-2001)
– He toured on three occasions with the British & Irish Lions, firstly in Australia in 2001 and then played one Test match apiece during the 2005 tour to New Zealand and the 2009 tour to South Africa
– He is the most-capped player in Heineken Cup history (110 matches), and played a record 63 times in the RBS 6 Nations, with his last appearance in the Championship coming in the defeat to Scotland in Edinburgh earlier this year
– O’Gara is the fourth top scorer in international rugby history. His haul of 1083 points for Ireland has him just behind Wales’ Neil Jenkins (1090), with Jonny Wilkinson of England (1246) and All Black Dan Carter (1385) in the top two spots
– He leaves the game as a member of world rugby’s ‘100 caps’ club, with his two Lions Test caps giving him 130 Test appearances for Ireland and the Lions. Legendary Australian scrum half George Gregan remains the record holder with 139
– The San Diego-born out-half was educated at Presentation Brothers College, Cork and University College Cork. He made his senior debut for Munster in the interprovincial clash with Connacht in Galway in August 1997, scoring 19 points on the day
– In 1998 he helped the Ireland Under-21s to a Triple Crown success, and also had a leading role in Cork Constitution winning the AIB League Division 1 title in 1999
– That was the same year that he made his debut for the Ireland ‘A’ team, and Warren Gatland, then head coach, handed him his first Ireland senior cap against Scotland at Lansdowne Road in February 2000. He kicked 10 points in a 44-22 defeat of the Scots, featuring alongside fellow debutants Peter Stringer, John Hayes, Simon Easterby and Shane Horgan
– O’Gara has been hugely influential in the red of Munster down through the years, helping them reach the 2000 and 2002 Heineken Cup finals initially before they went on to become European powerhouses
– He landed a last-minute conversion in the so-called ‘miracle match’ against Gloucester to seal Munster’s progression to the 2003 Heineken Cup quarter-finals
– His ability to shine under intense pressure was obvious as Munster won the Celtic League for the first time in 2003, when he scored 12 points in the decider against Neath. He also racked up 17 points in the 2005 Celtic Cup final win over Llanelli
– 2006 was another year to remember for O’Gara in the Munster number 10 shirt. He starred in the Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Leinster at Lansdowne Road, running in a late try in a 20-point showing, and he then kicked 13 points as Munster were crowned European champions after they beat Biarritz Olympique in the Cardiff final
– O’Gara collected his second Heineken Cup winners’ medal in May 2008, also in Cardiff, when Munster overcame Toulouse. He scored 11 points that day and was invited by captain Paul O’Connell to receive the trophy with him at the presentation on the pitch
– Two years later, his Heineken Cup achievements were further acknowledged with his winning of the ERC European Player award which credited him as the player who had made the greatest contribution to European rugby during the first 15 years of the Heineken Cup
– O’Gara’s right boot has won countless matches for province and country, his most famous strike in green being the match-winning drop goal in the Grand Slam decider in 2009. One of his most memorable kicks for Munster was the decisive drop goal after 40-plus phases against Northampton Saints in a 2011 Heineken Cup pool game at Thomond Park
– He was to the fore during his last season of rugby with Munster, scoring all of their points in an 18-12 quarter-final win away to Harlequins before their hopes of a third Heineken Cup were dashed by Clermont Auvergne at the semi-final stage
– He passed the 1,000-point mark for Ireland in their 2011 encounter with Wales in Cardiff, and was the RBS 6 Nations top points scorer during the 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 campaigns
– He holds the record for the most points scored by an Irish player in an RBS 6 Nations match (30 points against Italy in March 2000, with six conversions and six penalty goals)
– His most prolific Six Nations campaign came in 2007 when he finished the Championship with an Irish individual record of 82 points, including tries against Wales, France, Scotland and Italy and a 21-point kicking haul against England
– Of his other feats in the Ireland jersey, he kicked a record-equalling ten conversions against Japan in November 2000 and overtook his long-time rival for the number 10 jersey, David Humphreys, as Ireland’s record points scorer in the 2006 Six Nations opener against Italy
– O’Gara has special links with both Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium. He was the first Irish points and try scorer at Croke Park when Ireland played France there in February 2007, while he won his 100th Ireland cap against South Africa in the first international game at the Aviva Stadium in November 2010
– The Corkman made the 2011 Rugby World Cup Dream Team as voted for by fans, having scored 44 points during the tournament (including two penalties in the historic pool defeat of Australia)
– He played in three Rugby World Cups (2003, 2007 and 2011), and his list of individual awards also includes Munster Player of the Year, RTE Sports Person of the Year, Texaco Sportstar of the Year and GUINNESS Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year honours
– Apart from team silverware, O’Gara’s international career is decorated too with some excellent individual displays against the best teams from Europe and the southern Hemisphere
– He scored all 18 points as Ireland beat Australia in Dublin in November 2002, and he was a winner against the Wallabies on two further occasions in 2006 and 2011
– He put his name to all 17 points when Ireland defeated South Africa at Lansdowne Road in November 2004, and kicked 12 points when they lowered the Springboks’ colours again at the same venue two years later
– O’Gara has helped Ireland beat England on eight occasions since 2000, including those Twickenham successes of 2004, 2006 and 2010 and the historic Croke Park victories in 2007 and 2009. He tallied up 21 points in the 2007 win over England
– His input has been crucial in Ireland’s rare recent wins over France. He scored 17 points in the 2001 defeat of les Bleus at Lansdowne Road and rattled off 15 points against the French during the 2009 Grand Slam run
– Up until the 2012/13 season, he had played at least six games for Ireland every year since earning his first cap at the turn of the century. His busiest international campaign was in 2011 when he lined out on 13 occasions for Ireland
– His match-winning ability can been seen all over his Ireland statistics, with 14 wins from 14 appearances against Italy, six from eight against Argentina, eight from 14 against Wales and 11 from 15 against Scotland
– He captained his country on one occasion at Test level, leading Ireland in their 2008 RBS 6 Nations encounter with England in London. A Munster skipper on a number of occasions, he also captained Ireland in non-cap internationals against the Barbarians in 2010 and 2012
– He scored 16 tries for Ireland at Test level, beginning in February 2001 with the first of three career tries against Italy and ending in February 2011 with his second ever try against Scotland. He also touched down three times against Wales over the years