MUNSTER and Ireland out-half Ronan O’Gara has revealed the secret behind his phenomenal kicking success — the memory of his agonising late miss in Munster’s heartbreaking 9-8 defeat to Northampton in the Heineken Cup final at Twickenham in 2000.
O’Gara had a golden chance to win European rugby’s biggest club trophy when Munster were awarded a penalty two minutes from time just outside Northampton’s 22 but his effort drifted just past the post and Munster’s last chance of victory was gone. It was a traumatic day for the out-half who missed two other penalties, a conversion and two attempts at a drop goal during the game.
However looking back he feels the experience, bitter though it was, made him a stronger player.
“I suppose the best thing that probably happened me was missing against Northampton,” O’Gara recalled yesterday. “Obviously I cost Munster a Heineken Cup final medal but I think the messages I learned out of that will stand to me for the rest of my life.
“To learn such a valuable lesson at such a young age (O’Gara was then 23) I think just made me an awful lot stronger.”
Since then O’Gara has kicked Munster to Heineken Cup glory in 2006 and last month, helped Ireland to two Triple Crown successes and is universally acknowledged as one of world’s finest out-halves.
However he concedes than even now there are times when the ghosts of that day in Twickenham return and he struggles with his kicking.
“There’s times when you’re kicking and its so easy and then there’s times when you’re doing the exact same thing and it feels so difficult.
‘‘So I suppose that’s the challenge of the sport that you wake up and you don’t know exactly how it goes and that’s going to give you nerves, insecurities and doubts and then there’s other days when its so easy and you feel you can’t miss.
“You kind of have your routine and you back your routine,” the 31-year-old said on 96fm’s Neil Prendeville show.
And on the reasons for Munster remarkable run of success over the last decade O’Gara cited the unique togetherness and unity within the camp.
“People go on about it being a special place and special atmosphere but it is,” O’Gara explained. “It’s all local boys from around the area and than quality imports and they’ve really bought into it.
“There’s a huge work ethic in the Munster squad. It’s a fantastic squad effort.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved