RONAN O’GARA inspired Ireland to a 21-18 win over Scotland on Sunday, winning the Man of the Match award for his services. The fly-half has played second fiddle to Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton all season, and Ireland have typically used him in the last ten minutes of games to seal victories. But although Sexton has looked comfortable in the green jersey in the games against Italy and France, O’Gara was preferred to start for the trip to Murrayfield, and his performance will act as a sharp reminder to his competitors that there’s still plenty of miles left in his tank.
Although the competition for the No 10 shirt is fierce, O’Gara, who now has three young children, seems to have relaxed into his role in recent months and is enjoying his rugby as much if not more than ever.
“I struggled for years, it was so important to me that I take my rugby very seriously and at times I used to take it personally,” said O’Gara. “But I’ve been lucky, this career’s been brilliant to me and I wouldn’t change a thing. At this stage I think I’ve got to enjoy it. There’s a year or two left so I can’t be playing for people all the time, I need to play for myself and my family, and that’s probably the way I’m going now.”
Sexton’s arrival on the national stage was initially a pill that O’Gara found hard to swallow, but it has also acted as motivation for the veteran, who says that he is learning off them all the time.
“You can always learn no matter what stage of your career you’re at,” continued O’Gara. “You look at the exuberance and confidence of some of the Leinster players and that’s something that I can learn. I think I’m a rookie compared to some of these lads and the way they act, and that’s a great trait to have in a person.
“It’s all to play for in terms of starting. I think I’ve adapted well to competition, it’s brought out the best in me over the years and never more so than today. Jonny Sexton has a huge role to play, he’s a class player.”
Despite racking up 106 caps for Ireland in a career that has spanned eleven years, O’Gara is still finding it easy to motivate himself week in week out.
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“It’s easy (to motivate yourself),” said O’Gara. “The Scottish national anthem today gets you going and there was fantastic support. When you get to my stage or you’ve been as lucky as I have you’re very grateful for the opportunity to play, and that’s where I am.”