O’Gara laments another lost year with Reds12/04/2012 - 15:55:45
Ronan O’Gara is haunted by what might have been this season – on both club and international fronts.
With Ireland there was a chance of (at least) reaching a World Cup semi-final for the first time but Wales brought that ambition crashing down and with Munster the chance of a tilt at a third Heineken Cup was smashed last Sunday.
“That’s what hurts most I think, when you feel you are close to something,” said O’Gara yesterday.
“There was the chance of something special at the World Cup and then we had a chance at maybe reaching another European final.”
What makes it so very hard for O’Gara, who will sit out Saturday night’s league game against Glasgow with a knee injury, as he reflects on Sunday is that Munster were the architects of their own undoing.
“There were two key points against Ulster, the try we conceded was unacceptable at this level of rugby and from our point of view in attack we left four potential tries behind. On an average day you should convert two of them.
“But look a lot of fellas were experiencing a quarter-final for the first time and maybe it’s easy for me to say it but 13 years ago I was a different player, had different emotions so you have to let these people learn too.
“We live in a cutthroat environment but we had a lot of inexperienced players. This is a club competition and there is no comparison between this level and international but a lot of teams are now full of international players.
“I think a lot of the Munster players are club players and some of them wouldn’t feature on international sides, that’s just the way it is.
“And we had players coming back from injury who maybe didn’t have their best days.
“It’s hard to find form in a quarter-final. Really exceptional players can do that but it was probably asking too much of fellas.
“Players will always play better when they had a game the week before.”
That Sunday’s loss has also robbed Munster of a potential shot at Leinster in what many would have considered the dream Heineken Cup final.
“If we had got to Twickenham we’d probably be underdogs against a Leinster side that is basically an international team playing club rugby but if there is one side you’d think could put it up to them in a final it’s Munster.
“Unfortunately we don’t even have the chance to enjoy the build-up to a semi-final, and they are great occasions to be involved in.
“The fact that it’s going to be in Ireland (Aviva) too makes it harder to take because that would have been great for our supporters, not having to travel too far.”
All Munster have left for their season is the chance to retain their Celtic League title, which while being scant consolation is what O’Gara and his team-mates will be determined to do now.
“Absolutely, Europe is where our main ambition lay but these are the cards we are dealt and we have to be professional about it now and do what we can to win the thing outright,” he added.
It’s now four years since Munster contested a Heineken Cup final. O’Gara has oft lamented the lack of silverware but the “lost years” for him were the early part of the Millennium.
“We played in a European final in 2000 and yet didn’t win the thing until 2006. That’s a huge gap, a time when we should have been winning trophies.”
And another regret for O’Gara is that Tony McGahan will now depart Munster without winning the Heineken Cup as head coach.
“Those who know their rugby know that he won two Heineken Cups in 2006 and 2008. We wouldn’t have won them without him.
“You don’t need to convince me how good he is. I trained under him for seven years and he made me a better player every year. I’ve huge respect for him.
“As for his successor I genuinely haven’t thought about it. I will now and you’d hope that the very best will be appointed but that’s for another day,” O’Gara added.
This story courtesy of the Evening Echo
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