United Rugby Championship

'The Word Legend As Bandied Around Too Often But For Me He Is An Outlier'

'The Word Legend As Bandied Around Too Often But For Me He Is An Outlier'

Stade Rochelais coach and former Munster head coach Ronan O'Gara discusses the reported tension between Munster and its iconic player Peter O'Mahony

Jun 15, 2024 by Philip Bendon
'The Word Legend As Bandied Around Too Often But For Me He Is An Outlier'

Former Munster and Ireland star Ronan O’Gara is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever pull on the red and green jerseys.

A star fly-half in his playing days, O’Gara was named in a Champions Cup all-decade team, as well as being named to the Rugby Hall Of Fame.

Since hanging up his boots, O’Gara has gone on to carve out a highly successful coaching career, winning Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, before leading La Rochelle to back-to-back Investec Champions Cup titles.

Joining Irish sports radio show ‘Off The Ball’, O’Gara was asked about the treatment of current Ireland captain Peter O’Mahony. The question came following criticism by O’Gara’s former teammate Alan Quinlan of how Munster has treated O’Mahony so far this season.

In a previous ‘Off The Ball’ segment, Quinlan said, “I don’t like the way Peter O’Mahony’s being treated at the moment in the sense of being taken off early in matches. He doesn’t look happy, it looks premeditated and I don’t think it’s the right decision.

“We spoke about the impact of Munster’s bench. It’s been really good, but he’s coming off after 45 minutes – it was done to me at the end of my. He’s 34; he’s being treated like a pensioner. I think he deserves a little bit more respect than that.

“Maybe the Munster coaches wouldn’t be happy with me, but it’s the way I feel. It doesn’t look right to me.

“Particularly last week’s one, he looked frustrated and angry, and I think he still has a huge amount to offer.

“He’s not a dynamic – 15 carries a game back-rower – he never was, but his influence around the breakdown, his presence, aggression, physicality, lineout work is important.

“I feel, as a player, you’re half thinking I’m coming off. It doesn’t look great.

“Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re vindicated. It was their 10th win at the weekend. It’ll heat up against Glasgow at the weekend; there’ll be spice to that one,” Quinlan said.

Echoing his former teammate’s sentiments, O’Gara paid homage to O’Mahony, saying, “The word legend is bandied around way too often in sport because there are not 30 club legends in your squad every year, but unfortunately, Irish people look upon it like that.

“But if there was a person, I suppose that merited to be treated differently than the others, irrespective of performance, and it really does come down to performance and at the end of the day, because that's how you decide.

“But there are some guys that are a little bit bigger than the game for the environment and on the outside, and having played with Peter, for me, he would be the outlier in that regard. He would be the person because I think he makes people around him better, and if you were to draw through the Munster squad, another guy that would jump out would be Simon Zebo.”

Circling back to where the issues may have begun between the player and the club, O’Gara said he felt the prolonged contract negotiations will have played a part.

“I think that's a big part of his frustration of course, because sport is about dealing with people, making people feel good, you know.

“I suppose, from the business point of view too, you have to understand if the player wants to talk.

“Essentially, it's a player's game, and they're holding all the aces, then the club has the final decision on whether he's a top priority or if he's a priority with a few asterisks, or under no circumstances are we willing to keep this guy.

“But for me, it's so important that the decision-makers do it. Who are the decision-makers?  Peter O'Mahony, his management team, and the head coach.

“For me, that goes to establish relationships, to keep those relationships going, to keep the trust going. For me, that's where, as a head coach, I'd insist on stepping in and say, ‘Yeah, ok, well, it's the club that's signing him, you're not signing him?’ OK, well, I'm employed by the club. But I've got to feel he's my player, I care for this player, I want him to stay, I've got to do everything possible.” O’Gara said.

In the end O’Mahony signed a one year contract extension with Munster and remains the favourite to lead Ireland on their two test series against the reigning World Champions Springboks in South Africa this July.

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