A FEW of his attempted touch finders that ended up in the arms of speedy Toulouse wingers might have given Munster fans a few undesirable palpitations but Ronan O’Gara was a man among men once again in the Millennium Stadium.
Because he has been doing it so often over the years, people have, perhaps understandably, grown into the belief that this place kicking business is a piece of cake. And yet, as our gaze spread across this amazing sporting arena on Saturday and felt the anxiety of 60,000 or so Munster supporters, we wondered how many people in any field of sporting activity would have been able to knock over these goals, no matter how easy it might appear, with the same aplomb as the Munster number 10.
There is, of course, a lot more to O’Gara’s game than kicking penalties and conversions although it is extremely doubtful that Munster would now have two Heineken Cups in the locker and, come to think of it, whether Ireland would have captured three Triple Crowns in the recent past.
“Toulouse were dangerous at times but we felt comfortable defending against them,” he claimed. “Rua [Tipoki] was really in control of the midfield. They had a lot of five man line-outs and we worked hard on that all week, Tony [McGahan] and Declan worked on what was the best policy to defend against that. I think we shut them down and we were very much in control of the game until they got that try.
“When you’re up against a guy of Heymans’ calibre, that’s what you get in a European Cup final. That was seven points out of nowhere. A line-out on the halfway line, a try against us, the conversion, game on, but for me it was trying to keep as much control as possible.
“The forwards were immense, incredible. But there was a time when we were roaring for the ball and they were trying to keep it for seven minutes… they’re good but, well, I think we might have to review that.
“Paul’s gesture for me to pick up the cup at the end speaks volumes for the man and I’m overwhelmed by his unselfishness and it’s the greatest day I’ve ever had for Munster.”
Many people read Toulouse frustration into Jean-Baptiste Elissalde’s decision to drop for goal when all else seemed to be failing them in terms of their complete domination of the opening stages of the game. Not O’Gara.
“There was no satisfaction because we were chasing the game and these things happen very quickly,” he maintained. “We were under pressure. We couldn’t get out of our half and couldn’t get much ball. One of the great things is the change in our mindset that three, six, nine points down don’t win you finals. That’s what Deccie has beaten into us and something the three boys from overseas have been good at. But the big thing ringing in my head was, we have to go out and earn it. That’s what Paulie was saying and never a truer word was spoken.”
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