Writing an exclusive tribute to his old captain in Saturday’s Examiner Sport, O’Gara recalls the second Lions v South Africa test in 2009.
“In Pretoria six years ago, he had the opportunity for immortality as captain of the Lions. But in that second test, I destroyed that dream for him, giving away the winning Boks penalty which Morne Steyn kicked from 53 metres.
“Paul was captain, it could have been his biggest achievement in the game. Coming off the field, he had the respect and decency, the greatness, to put his arm around someone who just wanted his world to end right there. He was thinking of me when anyone else could have said ‘what were you doing there?'"
On the flight back from that Lions tour, O’Gara also recalled an resounding endorsement of O’Connell’s leadership skills.
“Something Marty Williams of Wales said to me. I'd have huge respect for Williams, a man who has achieved plenty in the game. But the awe in which he held Paulie was remarkable.
“For him to say O'Connell was the best captain he's played under said plenty.And that was after just six weeks. I had the privilege for 15 years."