After 128 caps in a green jersey, it is not looking good for Ronan O’Gara’s international future. If it is to be the end, there have been few better servants.
By Declan Whooley
Declan Kidney’s decision to leave him out of the squad for the French game has led to speculation that after 13 distinguished years, his time in a green jersey may be about to come to an end. Given the Munster man’s steely determination, you could not rule out a return, but for now the odds look remote.
The 36 year-old has been part of some of the most memorable days in Irish rugby and we have decided to pick 10 of the most memorable moments for the Irish out-half. It wasn’t an easy task.
Drop goal v Wales, 2009
“He’s got it,” was the cry from Ryle Nugent after arguably the most important kick in Irish rugby. Where else could you possibly start but that glorious day in Cardiff when the Grand Slam was claimed in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Luck was definitely on our side with Stephen Jones falling short with his last-gasp penalty effort, but when it mattered most, the Irish out-half delivered. Paul O’Connell described it afterwards as a 'manky kick', but that mattered little as Ireland celebrated its first clean sweep since 1948.
Star performance v England, 2007
Who can ever forget that historic victory over England at Croke Park? In what was an emotional night, O’Gara put in a kicking masterclass. He converted all three tries – he was off by the time Isaac Boss grabbed Ireland’s fourth of the night – slotted five penalties and hit the perfect cross-kick for Shane Horgan to score his try that night. This was O’Gara at the very top of his game.
Try v Italy 2007
When the Irish backline clicked, it made for great viewing. In 2007 there were times when it came together well and this try was at the end of impressive phase work, with O'Gara kicking through to touch down as Ireland put 51 points on the home side.
Drop goal v Wales, 2003
The end of O’Gara’s international career will not disappoint anyone in the Valleys. Long before THAT kick to win the Grand Slam in 2009, winning drop-goals in Cardiff were being perfected. This late kick set Ireland on the way to a 25-24 win, not long after Stephen Jones had managed to bisect the posts with an impressive effort of his own.
Try v Wales 2007
While he could never be accused as being the most physical number 10 to play the game, this try was a combination of strength and an eye for the gap as he held off the challenge of James Hook to touch down in the corner.
“I want to break free”
Okay, technically it is a little loose to classify this as an international moment, but forgive us for adding this to the list.
Perhaps when O’Gara’s professional rugby career comes to an end, he may try his hand at The Voice or The X-Factor to showcase his vocal talents. Seeing here driving his team forward (we’ll get our coats), Freddie Mercury would have been a proud man if he had ever heard this rendition. Probably.
Drop goal v Italy, 2011
Still the only team not to have lost to Italy since they joined the Six Nations, that record was minutes from falling for Ireland until O’Gara came off the bench to slot home one of his trademark kicks.
“Great day to be Irish.” Post-match interview v Australia, 2011
Say what you want about the out-half, no one could ever question his commitment or passion in a green jersey. Naturally disappointed not to start the crucial World Cup pool game against the Aussies, he more than played his part in kicking two penalties after coming on as a second-half substitute, in what was clearly an emotional night for the number 10, or number 21 on the night.
Drop goal v England, 2005
The previous visit to Dublin saw England hockey the home side, so revenge was in the air. Ireland edged a tight encounter 19-13, helped in no small part by two drop-goals, two penalties and a conversion from ROG.
Try v France, 2007
O’Gara holds the distinction of being the first Irish international to score a try at Croke Park with this effort against the French. The game would ultimately end in tears thanks to the opportunism of Vincent Clerc, but the out-half brought the home side back into the game in the first half when France looked to be pulling away.