independent

Friday 18 April 2014

O'Gara moved by ovation amid calls for 'one more year'

MUNSTER made an emotional bid to persuade Ronan O'Gara to commit to one more season and a final tilt at his third Heineken Cup during the presentation of the 2013 Munster Rugby Awards in association with the Irish Independent.

O'Gara, who has featured in 16 consecutive Heineken Cup campaigns, was visibly moved as he received an impromptu standing ovation at the event in his native Cork.

Former Ireland and Lions great Donal Lenihan encouraged the audience, which included Munster coach Rob Penney and the entire senior panel, into a chant of "one more year".

Lenihan paid tribute to the San Diego-born star by saying simply: "True greatness lasts forever."

However, O'Gara, who turned 36 in March, remained tight-lipped about his plans amid speculation that several French sides are prepared to offer him a player-coaching role.

There has also been speculation that he is considering outright retirement.

Another Munster legend whose future is also in doubt is former All Black Doug Howlett (35), who has also been linked to a possible retirement. Howlett, who joined Munster in 2008, established himself as one of the province's best international signings.

The 62-cap All Black was also giving little away at the awards. His right arm was in a sling following an injury sustained against Glasgow Warriors at the end of March.

There were more glowing tributes for another star whose future has been decided, with a standing ovation for Marcus Horan (35), who has confirmed his retirement.

Clare-born Horan has made history as Munster's most capped forward, boasting 225 appearances over 14 years for the province while also winning 67 Irish caps.

He also won two Heineken Cups before pulling the famous red jersey on for the last time on April 19 against Newport Gwent Dragons.

"It has been absolutely fantastic. Being involved with Munster and winning those trophies over the years has been an absolute dream come true," he said.

Lenihan, who hosted the ceremony at Maryborough House Hotel in Douglas, said it had been a campaign which held out rich promise for the future.

"It has been a fantastic season and the future is very bright indeed for Munster with players of the calibre of Simon Zebo, Tommy O'Donnell and Conor Murray all making their mark," he said.

The awards were presented in association with the Irish Independent, with the newspaper represented by Editor Stephen Rae, Managing Editor Michael Denieffe, Operations Editor Ian Mallon and Group Marketing Manager Geoff Lyons.

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