Ronan O’Gara has opened up on the difficult transition from elite-level competition to retirement.
After a storied career that included 240 appearances for Munster and 128 appearances for Ireland, Ronan O’Gara hung up his trusty boots in 2013.
With thousands of points to his name, O’Gara entered the world of coaching and punditry.
The legendary Irish out-half struggled to come to terms with the fact that his playing days were behind him and in one of his first games as a pundit, O’Gara experienced the bizarre feeling of not wanting Ireland to win.
O’Gara explained that he felt a sense of resentment at the prospect of Ireland beating the All Blacks for the first time in more than a century.
With Ireland leading New Zealand 22-17 in the final moments, O’Gara was met with an unfamiliar feeling.
Writing in his Irish Examiner column, O’Gara explained: “Many of these were my brothers, my team-mates. But now my career is done, littered with several failed efforts to beat New Zealand for the first time. Do I really want this to happen now, just a few months after I’ve retired?
“That first season outside the bubble, are you really giving it the ‘c’mon Ireland, let’s do this’? It’s a horrible feeling, really. I’m neither proud or ashamed to say I didn’t want Ireland to win that afternoon. You felt you had given your lot, only to be deprived on every occasion.
“There were some lads who were there with you, about to get over the line and you’re thrilled for them. Others, though, you’re resentful, almost bitter; they’d done very little in the green jersey and they’re going to achieve this milestone without even suffering?
“That burning, destructive competitor in you is saying this isn’t fair on me, when any normal person would be wagging a finger and saying ‘No Rog, you are wrong’. But if you are not feeling that sense of being torn in some way, then you are not a competitor, not in the real sense.”
O’Gara’s emotional rollercoaster took another turn when Ryan Crotty scored a last-minute try to bring the All Blacks level.
There was even more drama, however, as O’Gara didn’t want his country to lose but a retaken conversion condemned them to defeat and meant that Ireland’s wait for a victory over New Zealand would continue for another few years.
“It’s all ok now. Ireland won’t beat the All Blacks this day,” O’Gara continued. “But now I don’t want them to lose! So, I’m hoping Aaron Cruden’s conversion is unsuccessful. Worse to come. He misses the first time, but Nigel Owens gives him a second chance. I’ve flip-flopped back to Ireland. He converts. The full-time whistle. A shameful sense of Phew — for the fact Ireland didn’t win!
“That’s what happens in the brutal, early stages of retirement when you struggle to accept the circus has moved on quickly. Eventually, you learn to accept transition.”