'It will be strange for Reds to go into a season without ROG'
Published 23/08/2013 | 05:00
It's amazing how quickly things move on in rugby. It is just over a year since I retired but already in that time two new crops of players have come through in Munster.
And, of course, Rob Penney has come in as coach and lots of other changes to the back-room team have taken place.
But, of course, that's the way it works in rugby and other sports. We knew when we were there that we were only borrowing the jersey. We were trying to build on what those before us did and strengthen it for those coming after us.
It is now up to the current crop to make their own legacy. That's the challenge and that's the way it has always been.
You tend to become a bit institutionalised when you are playing and it is only when you step back from it that you can see the whole spectrum.
I had a bit of time to prepare for my departure. I knew when the hip injury flared against Scarlets in December that it was serious and, while I did not play after that, I was still part of the squad until May last year.
I've been busy since then. I moved back to Tipperary from Cork and have been farming ever since. I always did a bit on the family farm and I bought some land as well. We are beef farmers, so it is flexible enough and that has allowed me some time for coaching.
My alma mater, Rockwell College, also asked me to help out and I was delighted to get involved there as well.
I'm now doing my Level Two coaching badge with the IRFU and this year I will be coaching Clonmel and also Rockwell and I will see where that takes me.
It is so different from playing. When you are playing that is all you have to concentrate on. All the decisions are made for you, but as the coach you have to make them – even things like deciding when to bring a player on, stuff like that which you would never have given a thought to.
But it is enjoyable and great to see and experience the game from a different angle.
There is no doubt you are in a bit of a bubble when you are playing. It is so structured for you – from the moment you return for a new season everything is mapped now.
Squads tend to be very close, 33 or 34 lads existing together every day in a closely-knit group. Your day is structured for you, what to wear, what to eat, where to go.
It can take a bit of adjusting when you step outside that routine, especially when you have been doing it for several years.
Some guys struggle with that but the important thing is to get busy with something else. You look at the likes of Jerry Flannery, he didn't hang round and he is now working with Arsenal.
It's often difficult to keep in touch with lads when you finish playing but there have been a good few weddings recently so there has been a fair bit of contact.
Whatever about any of us retiring, it will be so unusual for a Munster team to be heading into a season without Rog. He's the one guy who was always there, it seems.
There was always cover for each one of us and always guys challenging to come through. You look at scrum-half where initially there was Peter Stringer, then Tomas O'Leary emerged and then Conor Murray came through.
But Rog was always the permanent fixture and he leaves a huge void. We used to always slag him that the reason he lasted so long was because of the way the pack protected him.
We were well aware we needed to protect him because you always knew he was the guy who would get you into the position you wanted to be in.
It will be strange without him but, as with any other player who moves away, there is now an opportunity for someone else to step forward and claim the jersey and it will be interesting to see who actually does that.
You just have to seize the moment when the chance presents itself and there will be plenty of guys in the Munster dressing-room this week who will feel this is going to be their year.
The first chance for some of those guys comes tomorrow against Gloucester.
Both sides will experiment – not least as there will be some serious business to come between them in the Heineken Cup later this season – but this could be the day some guy puts his hand up and makes the claim.
And that's the beauty of it all, you just don't know who that player might be.
There are a good few lads there in that dressing-room now that I don't know – I never played with them or even met them – but rugby moves on fairly quickly and it is now time for this bunch of players to make their mark and continue a great tradition.
I wish each and everyone of them the best of luck for the season.