There’s a certain formula you expect from sports documentaries.
Slow-motion, ground-level match footage; old photos from the past, with contextualising voiceover; talking heads interviews; behind-the-scenes clips of domestic life, for a richer perspective; a touch of mood music here, a newspaper headline montage there.
But you know what? They’re frequently used because they work, and they worked again in ROG, tonight’s fine documentary on Munster and Ireland rugby legend Ronan O’Gara.
Dave Berry and Nathan Nugent’s film included all the aforementioned conventions of the genre, melding them together in an unfussy and unflashy but quietly powerful programme. (A description, perhaps, that would fit O’Gara’s own career.)
We began and ended in Paris, the unlikely destination after the Corkman’s playing career ended this spring, where he now coaches Racing Metro. Ironically, his main job involves working with Johnny Sexton, for so long O’Gara’s rival for the Ireland Number 10 shirt and for whom no love was lost during his playing days.
In between, a life was revealed and explored: the player’s childhood, his early days as a professional athlete, early successes in green and red shirts, and of course, some famous disappointments. The man was honest and thoughtful in interview; the tone, for the most part, was wistful.
For any sportsperson, the end of their competitive days is a bitter pill to swallow, and O’Gara seems to have felt it incredibly strongly. He didn’t express too many regrets, except the impossible regret that it can’t just continue forever.
While committed to his new job, and often mentioning how important his family are, O’Gara did confess that he wished he was 22 again: young, fearless, ready to take on the world. As this excellent, and sometimes moving, film showed, he did just that – took on the world, and often won.
Not the worst memories to have, even if memories are all that’s left of your playing days.
Ten things you might not have known:
1. Ronan met his wife Jessica as a young teenager; they started going out in college
2. He has four children: JJ, Zak and twins Molly and Rua
3. He was voted best player of the Heineken Cup’s first 15 years
4. He used to go to the bookies or the amusement arcade after school
5. He’s the second eldest of four boys
6. His childhood nickname was Sport Billy, because he played pretty much everything
7. His parents are a primary teacher and an academic
8. He was born in San Diego in the US – but describes himself as a “true Corkman”
9. He studied Arts in UCC on a sports scholarship
10. He’s Munster and Ireland’s top-scorer of all time, and fourth in the history of international rugby