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O'Gara was so wrong to show how much the criticism got to him, but that's typical of ROG

A week is a long time in politics, but what about a fortnight in sport? The two-week mid Six Nations break is seen, by one and all, as vital for the teams and players to recover.

But in this vacuum everyone seems to get a little bit edgy.

An opinion piece by Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent on the French game had the curious reaction of a published retort by Ronan O'Gara. Curious, because sportsmen rarely ever respond in kind. Myers has now countered and we are all waiting in bated breath for the saga to continue.

An opinion piece is exactly that, and in his defence of the attack on his credentials to spout forth on rugby, Myers declares correctly, "one does not need to be a carpenter to see that the chair keeps falling over".

Equally, O'Gara is entitled to his reply, although I can't remember another player taking that right. By doing so it leaves O'Gara open to 'will he now congratulate a writer when a supportive piece is written'?

Myers' original article was along a more philosophical bent than purely a rugby one, and if his declarations in relation to the player seem harsh and personal, it is because they were.

They also had elements of truth to them, as Ireland coach Declan Kidney now has O'Gara consigned to the bench. But comparing O'Gara's tackling to Kate Moss's is, well, very harsh really. Or maybe we are getting too serious here.

And, you never know, maybe Kate Moss is a great tackler.

My initial thought was that O'Gara was ill advised to reply. In fact, I still think so. But, to be fair, the response is very much in keeping with the O'Gara we know.

He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and he is wont to say what he thinks, not what we would expect a sportsman to say. It makes him interesting. He has flaws, we know it and he knows it. And lest we forget it, he also is the longest-serving, most successful Irish out half. He, like all sportsmen, doesn't want to talk about his weaknesses.

When I was in the horrors with my lineout throwing, the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to it. I can now, only because the pain has been dulled by the years of retirement.

It is one of the toughest elements of sport, where every move is scrutinised and you get appraised every Saturday. Not surprising to be a little bit sensitive in those circumstances.

And then on the other side of the spectrum is John Hayes.

At 21 stone, he is hardly a candidate for sensitivity. He too has his faults, 6ft 4in was never the ideal height for a tight head. He gets in positions where he gets buckled. His scrummaging has been the brunt of criticism for nearly all of his 99 caps. But how ridiculous does that sound?

It could be the very definition of irony. The man is an institution. He has drawn nearly the whole rural community of Ireland along with him to rugby. We have precious few front rows in Ireland and that is often trotted out as the main factor of Hayes' selection. But that just trivialises his amazing achievement.

He replaced one of the heroes on the Lions tour in 97, Paul Wallace, after the hammering in Twickenham in 2000, and he has not missed a Six Nations game in the ten years since.

At nearly 36, he played in the final test of last year's Lions series. He has achieved everything in the sport, Grand Slam, Triple Crowns, Heineken Cups and Lions tours. His longevity has made him an easy target to highlight and yet all one has to do is ask his team-mates to get an idea of how he is rated.

He is the cornerstone of this Irish team. Beaten at times but rarely defeated, he has shouldered the expectation with the knowledge that he can't go off to be substituted. The French guys in the front row get hauled off on 50 minutes but Hayes is invariably there for the duration.

I played with him for three or four seasons and I can comfortably say he always gave everything. You can't ask for more. As the law changed and lifting became legal, he came into his own.

Mick Galway's resurgence in the team came at the time when, unassisted, a Rizla paper wouldn't fit under his jump but with the Bull Hayes behind, he could soar in the sky, and we could have another leader on the field.

Hayes would hate all this gushing. Jason Leonard sent him a text last year when he reached another milestone, and he ignored it. Not that he wouldn't like a text from Jason, but he couldn't believe Jason would text him. He thought one of the lads was having a laugh.

Last laugh to you, Bull. If a week is a long time, how does 10 years sound?


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