For O’Gara Heineken Is The Cup That Cheers
6th December 2011 By Munster Rugby
It’s his honesty that makes Ronan O’Gara such a compelling character and such a nightmare for most of your average Marketing minstrels.
Cause here we are on the pop of his 100th Heineken Cup cap and the opportunity for him to bask in his own glory, tell us what an honour it is. Instead he deftly bats away the praise while reminding us of the person who was the first to achieve that remarkable feat.
“To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought until it was mentioned.” he says without hesitation. “I was honoured to present John Hayes with his cap for his 100th Heineken Cup appearance because he was in my opinion the most fitting Munster man to achieve that milestone.”
“Now that I am aware, yes it's a great thing to achieve but right now I don't look on it as anything big.The game itself is far too important.”
“But when I retire. When I finish playing in a few years time I will look upon it as a significant cap because it's a fantastic competition.”
“A competition,” he continues, “that has given me every possible emotion and that's why you play the game.”
“I've had wonderful moments, disappointing moments, but that's why you get involved in sport. And that's why this Munster team is so special to me and why the Munster fans are so loyal to the Heineken Cup, turning up in their droves whenever and wherever we play.”
“The Heineken Cup is just a wonderful 'ambassador' for northern hemisphere rugby.”
Ask him about those wonderful moments “Ah there's been so many. Because the way the competition is structured, if you're lucky enough to win it, you play nine games, which in a season isn't many.”
“So every game is a big game in itself and that's the way Munster has always looked upon it. I think maybe last year, maybe we didn't get out of our group cause we were a small bit guilty of treating every game the same.”
“I have so many great memories of this competition. You go back to Toulouse in Bordeaux, the brand of rugby we played then- because Munster were traditionally a forward orientated team- that was the start of the fifteen man game and we've evolved every season because you have to. Because the standard has risen every season. It's an unbelievable competition I've been so lucky that it's given me so many great memories to name a handful would be doing a disservice to the probably other twenty five I have.”
Back in '97 when he was making the number 10 jersey his own O'Gara remembers the appeal of the interprovincials that had begun to run alongside the Heineken Cup. “When we played Leinster in Dooradoyle there was 500 people there. It wasn't where it is now, nowadays you'd get 80,000 at a game. It shows the impact the game has in this country.”
“But that doesn't happen by chance. It takes an awful lot of hard work by the ERC and by Heineken and all the home Nations.”