Ronan O'Gara

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Ronan O'Gara
Ronan O'Gara 2007.jpg
O'Gara kicking for Ireland at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
Full name Ronan John Ross O'Gara
Date of birth (1977-03-07) 7 March 1977 (age 37)
Place of birth San Diego, United States
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight 83 kg (13 st 1 lb)
School Presentation Brothers College, Cork
University University College Cork
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Fly-half
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
1995–96
1996–2003
University College Cork RFC
Cork Constitution
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1997–2013 Munster 240 (2,625)
correct as of 28 Apr 2013.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1999
2000–13
2001, 2005, 2009
Ireland A
Ireland
Lions
1
128
2
(0)
(1,083)
(0)
correct as of 25 Feb 2013.
Coaching career
Years Club / team
2013–present Racing Métro 92
Rugby union career

Ronan John Ross O'Gara (born 7 March 1977 in San Diego, California, United States) is an Irish former rugby union player, who played fly-half for both Ireland and Munster. He is Ireland's second most-capped player (128) behind Brian O'Driscoll and the fourth most-capped in rugby union history. O'Gara has captained Munster, Ireland, and the British and Irish Lions and won four Triple Crowns with Ireland and two Heineken Cups with Munster. O'Gara now coaches Top 14 team Racing Métro 92 in Paris, where he lives with his wife and five children.[1]

O'Gara is the all-time highest points scorer for Ireland and is the fourth highest points scorer in the history of International Rugby Union.[2] He has scored more tries (16) for Ireland than any other fly-half in history. O'Gara is Munster's all-time leading points scorer (2,625), and also holds the Heineken Cup record for points (1,365).[3]

O'Gara scored several match-winning dropped goals for Ireland, including in the 78th minute of the Wales vs Ireland match in the 2009 Six Nations Championship to secure the Grand Slam and in the 78th minute of the Italy vs Ireland match in the 2011 Six Nations Championship, which ensured Ireland avoided a first defeat to Italy in the Six Nations.[4]

Early life[edit]

O'Gara was born in San Diego, California, where his father, Fergal, was working as a post–doctoral fellow in Microbiology. His father had also played wing for the UCG club in Connacht.[5] His family moved back to Ireland while he was still young.[6] O'Gara was educated at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, and won a Junior Cup medal in 1992 and a Senior Cup medal in 1995.[7] He attended University College Cork and won an All-Ireland Under-20 medal in 1996.[8] He graduated with a B.A. and Masters Degree in Business Economics in 1999.[9]

Munster[edit]

1997–2007[edit]

O'Gara made his Munster debut alongside longtime Munster and Ireland teammate David Wallace against Connacht in August 1997, scoring 19 points.[10][11] O'Gara's Heineken Cup debut came against Harlequins in September 1997 in the 1997–98 Heineken Cup. O'Gara kicked 15 points, but Munster lost the game 48-40.[12] He started for Munster in the 2000 Heineken Cup Final,[13] which Northampton Saints won 8–9, and again in the 2002 Heineken Cup Final, which Leicester Tigers won 15–9.[14]

O'Gara's last minute conversion against Gloucester on 18 January 2003 helped Munster to a 27-point victory which took them through to the Heineken Cup quarter final; this match has come to be known in Munster folklore as the Miracle Match.[15][16] He was part of the Munster team that won the 2002–03 Celtic League, starting and scoring 12 points as Munster beat Neath 37–17 in the Millennium Stadium.[17][18] O'Gara turned down the chance to join NFL side Miami Dolphins in March 2003.[19] He started when Munster beat Llanelli Scarlets to win the Celtic Cup in May 2005, scoring 17 points in the game.[20][21]

O'Gara played a key part in Munster's Heineken Cup winning team of 2006. O'Gara had an important role in Munster's semi-final victory over rivals Leinster by scoring 20 points, including a 77th minute try.[22][23] On 20 May 2006, O'Gara kicked 13 points in Munster's first Heineken Cup Final victory over Biarritz at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.[24]

On 22 October 2006, O'Gara kicked a last minute penalty from inside his own half to win Munster a 21–19 victory over Leicester Tigers in the first round of the pool stages at Welford Road.[25] O'Gara scored 15 points during Munster's win in the 2006–07 Heineken Cup pool game against French side Bourgoin on 14 January 2007.[26] He kicked 5 points in Munster's quarter-final defeat to Scarlets on 30 March 2007.[27]

A man in a red shirt is running forward to kick a rugby ball placed on a tee.
O'Gara kicking for Munster.

2008–13[edit]

On 19 January 2008, O'Gara captained Munster to victory against Wasps in their final pool match of the 2007–08 Heineken Cup, knocking the incumbent champions out and making it through to quarter finals of the cup for the tenth consecutive season.[28] On 24 May 2008, O'Gara won his second Heineken Cup medal as Munster beat Toulouse 16–13 in the 2008 Heineken Cup Final, with O'Gara scoring 11 points.[29]

O'Gara scored a penalty with three minutes left to beat Montauban in the first game of the 2008–09 Heineken Cup and the first Heineken Cup game in the new Thomond Park.[30] On 13 December 2008, O'Gara became the first player to score 1,000 points in the Heineken Cup, when he scored a last minute conversion against Clermont.[31]

On 16 May 2010, O'Gara was awarded the ERC European Player Award, crediting him as the player who had made the greatest contribution to European Rugby during the first 15 years of the Heineken Cup. The selection panel consisted of Sir Ian McGeechan, Lawrence Dallaglio, Ieuan Evans, Fabien Galthié, Donal Lenihan, Michael Lynagh, Stuart Barnes, Stephen Jones and Jacques Verdier.[32]

O'Gara in the standoff position passes the ball away from a breakdown.
O'Gara playing against Harlequins in 2013.

O'Gara crossed the 2,000-point mark for Munster against Ospreys in a Magners League game on 18 September 2010. In November 2010, he extended his contract with Munster and the IRFU until 2013.[33] He became the fourth Munster player to win 200 caps in a Celtic League game against Ospreys on 23 April 2011. In May 2011, O'Gara was part of the Munster team that beat arch-rivals and newly crowned Heineken Cup champions Leinster 19–9 in the 2011 Magners League Grand Final at Thomond Park.[34]

On 12 November 2011, O'Gara scored an 84th minute drop-goal after 41 phases of play to secure victory for Munster in their opening 2011–12 Heineken Cup Pool One game against Northampton Saints.[35][36] A week later, in Munster's second Pool One game away to Castres Olympique, O'Gara again scored a match-winning drop-goal, this time in the 81st minute.[37][38]

On 10 December 2011, O'Gara became only the second player, the first being his Munster colleague John Hayes, to win 100 caps in the Heineken Cup. He achieved the feat in Munster's third pool game, away to Scarlets, which Munster won 14–17, with O'Gara contributing 12 points with his boot.[39] The following week, O'Gara scored 14 points in the home tie against Scarlets, helping Munster to a 19-13 victory.[40] He became the most capped Heineken Cup player ever on 14 January 2012, when Munster played Castres in Round 5 of the 2011–12 Heineken Cup, scoring 16 points along the way in a 26-10 win for Munster.[41] In Munster's final pool game against Northampton Saints, O'Gara scored 24 points as Munster won 51-36.[42] O'Gara announced in March 2012 that he planned to continue playing rugby until he was 38, quashing rumours of his retirement.[43][44]

On 13 October 2012, O'Gara scored a penalty and conversion before going off injured in the 34th minute in Munster's 22-17 defeat against Racing Métro 92 in their 2012–13 Heineken Cup opener.[45] As a result, O'Gara missed Munster's bonus-point victory against Edinburgh in Round 2, but he returned and scored 15 points in Munster's next pool game against Saracens, which saw Munster scrape a win.[46] He became Munster's most capped player ever on 5 January 2013, when he won his 233rd cap against Cardiff Blues.[47] O'Gara was cited and banned for one week after kicking Edinburgh's Sean Cox in the Heineken Cup Round 4 fixure between the two sides, which ruled him out of Munsters 29-6 victory over Racing Metro which secured qualification from the group stages.[48][49] He kicked all of Munster's points in their 12-18 Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Harlequins on 7 April 2013.[50] O'Gara kicked five points for Munster in their 16-10 Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Clermont Auvergne on 27 April 2013.[51]

O'Gara announced his retirement on 18 May 2013, after weeks of speculation.[52][53]

Ireland[edit]

1999–2003[edit]

O'Gara kicking against Scotland during the 2007 Six Nations.
O'Gara during the 2007 World Cup.

O'Gara won a cap for Ireland A on 9 April 1999, against Italy A during a friendly.[54] He was selected in Ireland's preliminary training squad for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, but was not chosen for the tournament, with the Irish management deciding to take two fly-halves and an extra prop instead of three fly-halves. O'Gara was in the Munster team that beat Ireland in a warm-up for the tournament.[55]

He won his first international cap for Ireland against Scotland on 19 February 2000 during the 2000 Six Nations Championship.[56] O'Gara scored all of Ireland's points in their 18–9 win over Australia at Lansdowne Road in the Autumn Tests of 2002.[57] He was a member of Ireland's 2003 Rugby World Cup squad,[58] and played in all four Pool matches against Romania, Namibia, Argentina and Australia, and in the quarter-final loss to France. In total, O'Gara scored 30 points during his first Rugby World Cup.[59]

2004–07[edit]

O'Gara scored all of Ireland's points in a 17–12 win over South Africa at Lansdowne Road on 13 November 2004.[60] Two weeks later, on 27 November, O'Gara kicked a last-minute drop goal to give Ireland a 21–19 victory over Argentina.[61] O'Gara won the Man of the Match awards against both South Africa and Argentina. In 2004, he was named RTE Sports Person of the Year.[62] In 2006, he overtook David Humphreys as Ireland's highest points scorer. In the same season, he won the Triple Crown with Ireland in the 2006 Six Nations Championship.[63]

On 11 February 2007, O'Gara scored the first Irish international try at Croke Park in the 2007 Six Nations Championship loss to France.[64] On 10 March 2007, O'Gara once again scored all of Ireland's points to win the Triple Crown at Murrayfield, beating Scotland 19–18. On 24 August 2007, in Ireland's final 2007 Rugby World Cup warm-up against Italy at Ravenhill in Belfast, O'Gara scored and converted a controversial try nine minutes into stoppage time, winning the match 23–20 after Italy had taken the lead with their own stoppage-time try.[65] O'Gara finished the match with 18 points.[66]

O'Gara was a member of Ireland's 2007 Rugby World Cup squad.[67] He started all four of Ireland's pool games, against Namibia, Georgia, France and Argentina, scoring 19 points in total.[68] Ireland failed to make the quarter finals of the tournament, and untrue rumour's of a breakdown in his marriage as well as a large horse betting debt were reported by the French media.[69]

2008–11[edit]

On 11 March 2008, O'Gara was named as Ireland team captain for the first time in his career, leading the side in the Six Nations match against England at Twickenham.[70]

O'Gara (Red jersey) celebrates after winning Ireland's Grand Slam in 2009.

On 14 March 2009, O'Gara overtook Jonny Wilkinson to become the top Six Nations point scorer ever.[71] On 20 March 2009, he scored a late drop goal in the 78th minute to beat Wales and secure for Ireland their first Grand Slam for 61 years.[72][73] O'Gara started against Australia in the first match of Ireland's 2009 November Series, scoring 10 points. He then lost his place in the starting line-up to Jonathan Sexton and did not play against Fiji or South Africa.[74][75]

O'Gara regained the fly-half spot in Ireland's opening 2010 Six Nations Championship games against Italy and France,[76][77] but was back on the bench for the remaining three games. He had a 100% kicking record for the 2010 Six Nations. O'Gara was selected in Ireland's squad for their 2010 Summer Tour to New Zealand and Australia, and started against New Zealand, converting 3 tries, but was on the bench for the Australia test. O'Gara became the third Irishman to win 100 caps when he came off the bench during Ireland's first 2010 Autumn Series test against South Africa.[78] He started against Samoa and scored 15 points, including a try. He came off the bench against New Zealand and Argentina.[79][80]

He came off the bench against Italy and France in the 2011 Six Nations Championship, and started against Scotland, winning the title of Man of the Match.[81] He started against Wales and became the first Irishman to score over 1,000 points in international matches.[82] He came off the bench against England, as Ireland prevented them from winning a Grand Slam.[83]

O'Gara was selected in Ireland's squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He played in all of Ireland's pool games, coming of the bench against the United States and Australia, and starting against Russia. In the Russia game, he became Ireland's highest points scorer in World Cup matches.[84] He was selected ahead of Jonathan Sexton for Ireland's crunch Pool C game against Italy, and scored 16 points as Ireland won 36–6.[85] He retained the fly-half jersey for Ireland's quarter-final against Wales, scoring a penalty and a conversion as Ireland lost 22–10.[86]

In an interview after Ireland's 15–6 World Cup victory over Australia on 17 September 2011, O'Gara hinted at his possible retirement from international rugby after the conclusion of the World Cup,[87] but subsequently said that his words had been misinterpreted.[88]

2012–13[edit]

In the 2012 Six Nations Championship,[89] O'Gara joined Brian O'Driscoll as Ireland's all-time caps leader (with 117) when he came on against Wales on 5 February 2012, during Ireland's opening 2012 Six Nations match. He also became the most capped player in Five/Six Nations history in this game, overtaking fellow Irishman Mike Gibson's record of 56. O'Gara became Ireland's most capped player against Italy on 25 February 2012, overtaking O'Driscoll's record. O'Gara made substitution appearances in all 5 of Ireland's 2012 Six Nations fixtures, a tournament he descirbed as 'gut-wrenching'.[90]

O'Gara came on as a replacement in all three of Ireland's tests against New Zealand in the 2012 tour.[91][92][93] O'Gara won his 125th cap for Ireland on 10 November 2012, as a replacement against South Africa.[94][95]

In the 2013 Six Nations Championship,[96] O'Gara made his first appearance on 10 February 2013, coming on as a replacement against England.[97] He came off the bench against Scotland in Round 3, having lost out on the 10 jersey to Paddy Jackson after Jonathan Sexton's injury against England.[98] O'Gara was dropped from the Ireland squad for the game against France,[99] and was also left out of the squad for Ireland's final game against Italy, which Ireland lost 22-15, their first-ever defeat to Italy in the Six Nations.[100][101]

O'Gara announced his retirement from all rugby on 18 May 2013.[52]

British and Irish Lions[edit]

2001[edit]

O'Gara received his first Lions call-up for the tour to Australia in 2001. He played in four tour games, against Western Australia,[102] NSW Waratahs,[103] NSW Country Districts[104] and ACT Brumbies,[105] scoring 26 points overall. However, O'Gara was a substitute in the test side that played Australia A.[106] In the game against NSW Waratahs, O'Gara was involved in an off the ball incident with Duncan McRae, which resulted in O'Gara needing eight stitches around his eye and McRae being sent off and later banned for seven weeks.[107] After the game, then Lions coach Graham Henry called the match ‘a bad day for rugby’.[108]

2005[edit]

O'Gara earned his second Lions call-up for the tour to New Zealand in 2005[109] On the tour, he played in 6 tour games, against Bay of Plenty,[110] New Zealand Maori,[111] Otago,[112] Southland,[113] Manawatu[114] and Auckland.[115] O'Gara also earned a cap for the Lions on this tour, coming on in the Third Test defeat as a replacement.[116]

2009[edit]

On 21 April 2009, O'Gara was named as a member of the British and Irish Lions for the 2009 tour to South Africa.[117] On 30 May 2009, O'Gara scored 22 points, including a try, in the opening match of the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa against the Royal XV, in a 25–37 win.[118] On 10 June, O'Gara played against Natal Sharks, scoring 12 points as the tourists won 3–39.[119] On 16 June, O'Gara was in the Lions team that defeated Southern Kings 8–20.[120] On 23 June, he captained the midweek side in a 13–13 draw against the Emerging Springboks[121] On 27 June, he came off the bench in the second test match, winning his second Lions cap. He conceded a seventy-ninth minute penalty with the scores level, when he collided with the airborne South African scrum-half Fourie du Preez, thus interfering with a player in the air. Morné Steyn scored the penalty, and won the match and the series for the Springboks.[122] O'Gara played 5 games in total on the 2009 tour, scoring 49 points.

Retirement and coaching career[edit]

After weeks of speculation following Munster's semi-final defeat to ASM Clermont Auvergne in the 2012–13 Heineken Cup, O'Gara's retirement was confirmed on 18 May 2013.[52] He was offered a one-year contract extension by Munster, but instead decided to take a coaching role outside of Ireland with French side Racing Métro 92.[52][123]

O'Gara used his inaugural column for the Irish Examiner to comment on his decision to retire: "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. I am trusting my instinct and it is telling me now is the appropriate time to stop (playing). 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."[124] Munster Rugby Chief Executive Garrett Fitzgerald also paid tribute to O'Gara: "In wishing Ronan the very best in the future, I’d like to acknowledge the immense contribution he has made to Munster Rugby and indeed rugby in general in Ireland over the course of what has been a fabulous career."[125]

O'Gara confirmed in a statement on 18 May 2013 that he would be joining Racing Métro 92's coaching team in July 2013. He will be an assistant coach and will also work with the their youth team. Amongst others, O'Gara will be coaching former Ireland teammate Jonathan Sexton.[126][127] In a radio interview, Sexton expressed his delight at being able to work alongside his former Ireland rival.[128] O'Gara attended the BVI Rugby Football Union Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Scrub Island, British Virgin Islands as the guest of honour in June 2013.[129] O'Gara officially began his coaching role at Racing Métro 92 on 1 July 2013.[130]

Honours and achievements[edit]

Upon his retirement, O'Gara held a number of honours and achievements at both club and international level. At the time, he had played for Ireland more times than any other player in history and had won nine trophies with Munster.[131]

International tries[edit]

Ronan O'Gara International Tries[132]
Try Opponent City/Country Venue Competition Date
[1]  Italy Dublin, Ireland Landsdowne Road Six Nations 3 February 2001
[2]  Wales Dublin, Ireland Landsdowne Road Six Nations 3 February 2002
[3]  England London, England Twickenham Six Nations 16 February 2002
[4],[5]  Samoa Apia, Samoa Apia Park Test Match 20 June 2003
[6]  Wales Dublin, Ireland Landsdowne Road Six Nations 22 Feb 2004
[7]  South Africa Dublin, Ireland Lansdowne Road Test Match 13 Nov 2004
[8]  France Paris, France Stade de France Six Nations 11 February 2006
[9]  Australia Melbourne, Australia Telstra Dome Test match 24 June 2006
[10]  Wales Cardiff, Wales Millennium Stadium Six Nations 4 February 2007
[11]  France Dublin, Ireland Croke Park Six Nations 21 February 2007
[12]  Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland Murrayfield Six Nations 10 March 2007
[13]  Italy Rome, Italy Stadio Flaminio Six Nations 17 March 2007
[14]  Italy Belfast, Northern Ireland Ravenhill Test match 24 August 2007
[15]  Samoa Dublin, Ireland Aviva Stadium Test match 13 November 2010
[16]  Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland Murrayfield Six Nations 27 February 2011

International analysis by opposition[edit]

Against Played Won Lost Drawn Tries Points  % Won
 Argentina
8
6
2
0
0
59
75
 Australia
9
3
5
1
1
74
33.33
 Canada
2
1
0
1
0
22
75
 England
14
8
6
0
1
101
57.14
 France
16
3
12
1
2
127
21.88
 Georgia
2
2
0
0
0
23
100
 Italy
14
14
0
0
3
180
100
 Japan
1
1
0
0
0
23
100
 Namibia
2
2
0
0
0
21
100
 New Zealand*
13
0
13
0
0
38
0
Pacific Islanders
1
1
0
0
0
0
100
 Romania
3
3
0
0
0
14
100
 Russia
2
2
0
0
0
30
100
 Samoa
3
3
0
0
3
62
100
 Scotland
15
11
4
0
2
125
73.33
 South Africa*
8
2
6
0
1
56
25
 Tonga
1
1
0
0
0
10
100
 United States
2
2
0
0
0
18
100
 Wales
14
8
6
0
3
100
57.14
Total 130 73 52 3 16 1083 56.15
Correct as of 17 March 2013[133]

* indicates inclusion of caps for British and Irish Lions

Cork Constitution[edit]

  • AIB League:
    • Winner (1): 1998–99
  • Munster Senior League:
    • Winner (1): 1997–98

Munster[edit]

Ireland[edit]

British and Irish Lions[edit]

  • British and Irish Lions tours:

Personal life[edit]

On 6 July 2006, O'Gara married his longtime girlfriend Jessica Daly.[134] On 9 October 2008, he published Ronan O'Gara: My Autobiography, co-written by Denis Walsh, chief sports-writer with the Irish edition of The Sunday Times.[135] An updated version of his autobiography was released in 2009, after Ireland's Grand Slam success.[136] On 11 October 2008, his wife Jessica gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl named Rua and Molly, in Cork University Maternity Hospital.[137] On Wednesday 30 June 2010, Jessica gave birth to the couple's third child shortly before midnight, their second son, JJ. They missed the wedding of Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman because of this.[138] The couple had their fourth child, a boy named Zak, in July 2012.[139][140] On 24 October 2013, a testimonial dinner to honour O'Gara was held at Cork's City Hall, with around 850 guests paying €300 per ticket to charity.[141][142] O'Gara released a second autobiography in November 2013, which is titled Ronan O'Gara: Unguarded.[143] On 2 January 2014, a new behind-the-scenes documentary called "ROG – The Ronan O’Gara Documentary" aired on RTÉ One.[144] On 2 February 2014, O'Gara announced his wife is expecting the couples fifth child in April 2014.[145] Their son, Max, was born on 6 April 2014.[146]

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Further reading[edit]

  • O'Gara, R, (2008) Ronan O'Gara: My Autobiography, Transworld Ireland
  • O'Gara, R, (2013) Ronan O'Gara: Unguarded, Transworld Ireland

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Denis Leamy
Munster captain
April 2011
Succeeded by
Paul O'Connell
Preceded by
Brian O'Driscoll
Ireland captain
March 2008
Succeeded by
Brian O'Driscoll