Thursday 19 October 2017

Alan Quinlan brilliantly sums up Ronan O'Gara's first day at Munster as ROG receives Freedom of Cork

15 February 2000; Peter Stringer, right, pictured with Ronan O'Gara who both win their first caps for Ireland at half back for the game against Scotland, pictured during Irish rugby training. Picture credit; Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
15 February 2000; Peter Stringer, right, pictured with Ronan O'Gara who both win their first caps for Ireland at half back for the game against Scotland, pictured during Irish rugby training. Picture credit; Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Toole

Former Munster flanker Alan Quinlan was in great form on Thursday afternoon as he attended Ronan O'Gara's 'Freedom of the City' ceremony at Cork City Hall.

O'Gara was awarded Cork's highest civic honour after a glittering 16-year career with Munster, with the province's all-time leading points scorer honoured for his distinguished contributions to the city.

The 40-year-old was joined at the ceremony by former Ireland captain Donal Lenihan, and former Munster teammates Alan Quinlan and Doug Howlett.

Quinlan said that O'Gara was a tremendous leader at Munster, and a player that displayed a huge amount of passion and pride in playing for the province and in representing Cork.

However, the former Ireland international does admit that he didn't predict the amount of success that O'Gara would go on to achieve, claiming that he initially thought O'Gara and longtime half-back partner Peter Stringer had won a school competition to come and visit Munster when he first saw the pair training at the club.

"I think we were always lucky," said Quinlan.

"We didn’t really know anything differnet. Most of us started at Munster in 1997 or 1998 and we didn’t know what to expect, we were living the dream.

"But I remember when I first saw Strings and ROG, and I thought 'are these guys out of school? Did they win a trip out to Munster for the day?

"They were these two small little guys but Strings went on to win 98 caps and ROG won 128. It was a very special journey along the way."

Not content with highlighting the fact that he had mistaken O'Gara and Stringer for two schoolboys who had somehow chanced their way into Munster, Quinlan spoke of his experiences of rooming with O'Gara while the two traveled together with Munster and Ireland.

Quinlan said that O'Gara was always very disciplined with regards to his sleeping patterns, and that he was always in bed before 11:30, but that the real difficulties in rooming with the Racing assistant coach stemmed from his misguided trips to the bathroom.

"Rooming with ROG was an experience," added Quinlan.

"He’s able to boss people around for not a huge man but the most challenging thing was if we went away on camp, and we had a few drinks, was to stop him from sleepwalking.

"We used to have to show him where the bathroom was, because if we didn't, he'd use my bed or gear bag as the toilet.

"I remember we were down in Waterford for one week and we had won a PRO 12 game in Musgrave Park, now Independent Park.

"We went to Waterford and had a few drinks, and ROG was moving all this stuff in my gearbag. I thought 'what's he at here?'

"It turns out he was positioning himself to get rid off that excessive fluid. I had to guide him into the bathroom so they were definitely the most challenging moments."

After taking the first few minutes of his tribute to rip into O'Gara, Quinlan did eventually soften the hammering, and praised his former teammate for his passion and leadership qualities as a player.

"He was very passionate," added the Irish Independent columnist.

"He was always very passionate about Cork and its very deserving that he's recognised here today. He gave guidance, calmness, and he was a really great leader.

"He'd give you a wake up call with a bit of abuse, but not not every team has 15 vocal guys, but ROG was able to lead and back it up.

"We had great fun off the field and that was important to us, but we worked very hard on the field, and they were great days. We all miss it but they’re great memories now."

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