O'Gara: I got away with bad manners when I played for Munster

Former Ireland and Munster star Ronan O’Gara has talked candidly about how he believes he was selfish, had bad manners and how professional athletes are "not normal".

Appearing on TV3's ‘Late Lunch Live’ today, he also spoke about adapting to life in Paris, his behaviour as an Ireland and Munster player, and Munster’s chances in the European Cup.

Speaking about the pressures and anxiety that come with being a professional athlete, O'Gara said: "You have to be extremely selfish, there's no doubt about it, everything is about Saturday and that's the way you are and it's only when you leave that bubble and retire that you think: 'Where was my head at?'

"I didn't really like meeting people in the shop or stopping and talking to them at the time and I thought that was normal but now I think it was just the height of bad manners.

"When you play, you get away with it because you're a Munster rugby player, an Irish rugby player. I wasn't trying to be rude; I just kept to myself as that's how I dealt with the pressure.

"We're not normal, sports people at that level are not normal, because their head is very different and I hear people criticising Roy Keane about his drive and saying that he's not thinking like a normal person but, like, you have no idea about the mindset of a professional sports person to perform to his optimum.

"We do think differently and do odd stuff in the heat of the battle because it's very few who succeed. I put pressure on myself but in the end I think I needed that."

Speaking about how retiring has changed him, he said: "It's a big change from playing to coaching, it has changed me.

"Obviously when you're playing for Munster and Ireland and considered as one of the better players you are a different person, you expect everything done for you - that's the way I was, I was selfish and because you're Ronan O'Gara you get doors opened for you and stuff.

"But now it's absolutely great but I struggle even putting in a ticket for the local train station as all I had to do before was get up out of bed and under your door there's a daily schedule so you look to see what t-shirt you're wearing and then you get on the bus and you don't appreciate it but now looking back I think: 'What world was I living in?’.

"[It’s] difficult to think about what it was like in the past as now I've left and experiencing different cultures and different people, I felt the pressure hugely to perform, because I was a local fella and never left there and think that the mood of the people going to work on Monday is determined by how you perform on Saturday and you swallow that all week.

"But there's another side of it where the other half of people aren't really too bothered yet you think that everyone is watching you and you are so important!"

When asked how far he thinks Munster will go this year in the European Cup, he said: "I think they can go the whole way, because that's the standard Munster has set for themselves, and he [Anthony Foley] knows what it takes to win and he's a championship attitude.

"I don't think the squad is as strong as previous years - that's my one negative comment - they probably wouldn't be in the quality of the Jim Williams or John de Villiers or other top names.

"But that's for people coming in to make their mark and hopefully if expectations are a little lower, they can shine so there's a winning culture there and that stands for an awful lot but they've a massive game on Saturday.”

The father-of-five, who is is currently leading out the ‘Ben’s Beginners’ programme for Uncle Bens, aimed to get children and parents cooking at dinnertime, also spoke about how his children are adapting to life in France.

“'I don't know if I live in a house or a zoo at times but it's unbelievable to hear them learn French so easily compared to their dad as speaking French in a Cork accent doesn't really work,” he said.

When asked what he missed about Cork and Munster, the Racing Metro Assistant Coach said: "I miss the people and I miss the restaurants and going to Thomand Park on a European Cup night as it's a special occasion for anyone who knows what it's about."

‘Late Lunch Live’ airs weekdays from 3.30-4.30pm, on TV3.

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