Thursday 21 September 2017

O'Gara reveals Kidney's turmoil over dropping him

Declan Kidney had been Ronan O’Gara’s coach on and off since he played U-14s
Declan Kidney had been Ronan O’Gara’s coach on and off since he played U-14s
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

RONAN O'GARA has revealed how he was at a matinee showing of 'The Gruffalo's Child' with his family when the call came from Declan Kidney to inform him his Ireland career was over.

The legendary Munster, Ireland and Lions fly-half has revealed in a new book how he returned the call on his way home from the show and turned down the then Ireland coach's offer to meet face-to-face and deliver the news.

"Because of where we were, I had the phone on vibrate in my pocket. When it rang I had a look at the name. Declan Kidney. F**k it. Ignored it," he wrote in 'Unguarded, My Life in Rugby'.

"Deccie obviously wasn't ringing me to tell me I was captain against France the following Saturday at the Aviva.

"After we walked out to the car, which was parked about 200 metres from the Opera House, I rang him back.

"He bent over backwards to try and meet me but I just said, 'Deccie, it doesn't make any difference to me what you say to me, whether it's over the phone or to my face, I'm not going to look upon you any less as a man. It's obvious you've something to say.'

"He said: 'No, I can't do this over the phone.'

"'Well sure it's not good news so, Deccie. I'm not f**king stupid. I realise what's going on.'

"He was humming and hawing, and kept trying to arrange a meeting; it felt like he was having difficulty holding back his emotions.

"I was obviously feeling hugely disappointed because I thought I'd weathered the storm with the game against the Ospreys, but he just said to me, 'I don't have a place for you this weekend'."

O'Gara disagreed with Kidney's decision, but the coach's mind was made up and, having worked with him for most of his career, the player knew that he was fighting a losing battle to change his mind.

"We hung up. It had been as amicable as it could be. Deccie had been my coach on and off – mostly on – since making me captain of the U-14s in Presentation Brothers College.

"Now I was being dropped from a match-day squad for the first time in 14 years playing for Ireland. We'd had our conversation on speaker, with Jessie and the kids in the car. I talked with Jess for a little while and a swirl of thoughts went round in my head.

"I was very conscious of the bigger picture at this stage. I was looking at coaching and issues like that because I was top dog for 10 years, then I was sub, and I was always trying to gain experience, or learn about how important the squad is, and how you treat people."

O'Gara also moved to clarify the infamous photograph taken in 2009 of him, with his hands in his pockets, about to meet Queen Elizabeth.

DISRESPECTFUL

The event was scheduled in Hillsborough Castle and caused a storm at the time with the Corkman painted as disrespectful in the immediate aftermath.

"It is an amazing photo," he writes. "Brian's face suggests something is happening. It couldn't have been staged any better. We'd been informed that this was a private function, in which case the photo was a breach of confidence.

"There were a few things that didn't add up. Some people are so stupid for thinking it was a statement, that I was trying to insult the Queen. The fallout was disturbing."

The book also sheds further light on the difficult relationship between O'Gara and Jonathan Sexton at the start of their rivalry.

O'Gara reveals that for a couple of seasons the duo rarely talked while on international duty together, even when Kidney had them room together and added that things thawed during the 2011 World Cup.

Irish Independent

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