Saturday 25 October 2014

True sports stars are always persecuted by their drive for perfection

Published 04/01/2014 | 02:30

Roy keane
Roy keane
Ronan O'Gara
Ronan O'Gara

My dream TV documentary? Easy. It would be 'Roy and ROG -- Head to Head'. Imagine? The two Corkmen bouncing off each other in an interview. Roy Keane would show off his one-liners. Ronan O'Gara could show his emotive soliloquies. Both would bring The Truth. At least their versions of it.

Roy and ROG are two of the most fascinating Irish sportspeople of our time -- their individualism is intoxicating to watch. Both revealed more of themselves in recent documentaries -- 'ROG' on RTE this week and 'Keane & Vieira -- Best of Enemies' on ITV last month. They didn't rush to have those programmes made. It was four years in the works for O'Gara. Apparently it took two years for Keane to even agree to do his show and tell.

They seem to have plenty in common. Both could swap experiences from their playing days; a feeling of being let down by their managers and their dealings with feisty young pretenders. They're both currently assistant coaches. ROG has four children, Roy has five. Both have an edge. And both have as good as trademarked their own winning mentality.

Are they too alike? "A new young kid on the scene, it's almost my job to keep you down there." This could easily have been O'Gara's description of his rivalry with Johnny Sexton. But it was Keane on Vieira. They both seem to be persecuted by a drive for perfection; the stench of defeat hung with them a lot longer than the taste of victory. The most emotional part of 'ROG' was his interview after Munster were knocked out of the Heineken Cup in 2011. The defeat crushed O'Gara -- he wanted to give up rugby.

"I'm broken," he cried.

It showed the extreme emotions he goes through -- invincible/vulnerable; love/hate.

Was there a hint of the Peter Pan syndrome for both men? Alex Ferguson exclaimed in his recent autobiography that Keane "thought he was Peter Pan". Is it not understandable for some highly driven sportspeople to feel they are unstoppable? Keane felt he could have played on for Manchester United.

In 'ROG', O'Gara said he still experiences pangs to play despite retiring: "I still feel there's 10 minutes in me for Racing Metro."

According to psychologist Dr Olivia Hurley, this is just a sign of O'Gara's competitive nature.

Dr Hurley explains that the career of a sportsperson is very bizarre, because when "you're at your physical peak compared to others, you have to retire".

"Retired sportspeople try and replace that high of adulation and success they enjoyed during their careers. They have to find a way of accepting that they're not going to get that high back. Trying to replace it could lead you down a negative path."

But O'Gara has shown he's already moved on to the next challenge with his job as Racing Metro assistant coach.

What about their struggles with their own former managers? Keane said he and Ferguson have a "non-existent" relationship now. "The two words the manager used all the time were control and power," Keane said of Fergie.

ULTIMATELY, is an element of this essential in every player-manager regime? What about O'Gara and Declan Kidney? 'It's personal' are dirty words in any working relationship but O'Gara intimated in 'ROG' that it was personal between him and Kidney. I wonder what Kidney thought of this.

O'Gara's battle between holding on to his place in the Ireland team and being axed epitomised the words of former Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy; you're either inside the tent pissing out or outside the tent pissing in.

During 'ROG', O'Gara castigated himself over getting a D2 in English in his Leaving Cert. Maybe he does find it hard to let go. But he delivers verbal freestyling like no other. And there were plenty of tests later in his career that he aced.

SINEAD KISSANE IS A PRESENTER AND REPORTER WITH TV3

Irish Independent

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