Sunday 8 December 2019

'Ronan O'Gara will be lining Racing 92 up for Munster' - Peter O'Mahony

Ronan O’Gara tackles Peter O’Mahony during their playing days together. The Racing 92 coach will be hoping his team stay as close to the Munster man during Saturday’s European Cup clash. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ronan O’Gara tackles Peter O’Mahony during their playing days together. The Racing 92 coach will be hoping his team stay as close to the Munster man during Saturday’s European Cup clash. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Television sport's obsequious pandering to morality never ceases to amaze.

They will allow brazen lies and cheating to go, so often, unchallenged. They will show endless rivers of blood, spit and vomit to spill forth on (and off) the playing surface to glorify the thrills and spills of sport.

O’Gara also hopes that his side can mine deep for some pride despite their embarrassing exit. Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images
O’Gara also hopes that his side can mine deep for some pride despite their embarrassing exit. Photo by Dave Winter/Icon Sport via Getty Images

And don't forget those wonderfully abusive terrace hymns, impossible to ignore as the commentary takes a breather, that vilify the living and the dead and question everything from parental divinity to religious observance.

Truly, TV sport remains the last bastion of untrammelled freedom of expression. Except for one thing.

Profanity. Hearing a swear word during TV sport evokes a sense of horrified outrage akin to blowing a raspberry at a funeral.

Even if emitted by one in great physical pain after a dangerous tackle or crashing fall, the rush to apologise on behalf of absolutely everyone who has ever been employed by the TV station, or even sent them an invoice for services rendered, is quite unseemly.

Swearing and sport are as synonymous as sport and cheating or sport and violence. Everyone needs to get over it.

They were at it again on Sunday night when Ronan O'Gara turned the air blue with his Cork-tinged motivational mots of wisdom to his stuttering Racing 92 players. "We're terribly sorry," repeated the TV man.

It's not the first time O'Gara's colourful cajoling has required excessive explanation, by way of a doleful apology usually reserved for when your eight-year-old unwittingly screams his first swear in front of granny.

Like polyglot poacher Jurgen Klinsmann, who used to adapt his swearing as he hopped from territory to territory, O'Gara has mastered the art of bilingual profanity.

"Allez Antoine, that's the f**king stuff," he once intoned.

Tanked

"Ah, I won't comment on the swearing," laughs O'Gara's erstwhile team-mate Peter O'Mahony, as the sides prepare to meet this weekend in the Champions Cup contest Munster must win.

Racing don't need to win it; last season's beaten finalists have tanked in Europe and in the league are a mid-table muddle.

Their star out-half Johan Goosen will soon be taken to court after he walked out on them last month. But, if O'Mahony knows anything about O'Gara, he knows his pride won't allow submission.

"ROG is too big a competitor to let this one slip and he'll be teeing them up for us. We are preparing for the best team we've played against this year, the quality they have and the performance they are going to put in. He will be lining them up for us so we're going to have to be good."

O'Gara also hopes that his side can mine deep for some pride despite their embarrassing exit.

"We will all put our hands up because it wasn't good enough. You can make excuses about falling into the French psyche, but you have to rise above that and keep your own standards.

"It's hugely disappointing to have zero points after three games. Part of the problem is that the Top 14 is such a beast but they need to realise just how good the Champions Cup is. We're trying to do that. Last year was a bit easy for us as we got to the final, and this year we thought we would get to the quarter-final without being there mentally.

"It'll take a while for this to sink in and it's incredibly disappointing that we're out of this great competition."

Both men are opponents this week but they will also briefly share a moment to consider Anthony Foley, whose loss united them in grief last October; the routine of match preparation will allow certainty to navigate a route down another unprecedented emotional path.

"It's going to be a difficult week for a lot of guys but you've got to stick to the routine, stick to what we normally do in a week and try and keep the head down," confirms O'Mahony.

"Look, we're not going to think about Axel any more than we do every other week. The style of play we're playing has him written all over it so we reference him in every meeting, more than once.

"Someone asked me was he going to be at the back of our minds for the week but he's at the forefront of our minds every week. So it's not going to be any different that way."

Despite everything that has changed, Munster's commitment to remaining unaltered in their commitment since October has proved to be a soothing, comfortable balm. Facing a monstrous French side at home, regardless of their recent toils, will maintain that sense of myopia on the task of simply playing.

"Look, it's a massive game for us," confirms O'Mahony. "As soon as you lose one in this competition, it's Cup rugby from then on in. So we've processed to get through a big week's training, it's a very important week for us to hit the ground running.

"And then for us to just put in a good performance because you go anywhere in France and it's tough to go and play, especially playing against a team with the quality that Racing have.

"They have quality players and we know how proud they are of their history, playing at home especially. They're very proud and they're going to look to put in a big performance against us.

"It's a hard enough place to go and play as it is without them having the crowd on their backs if they are in trouble. So we need a big week.

"We'll focus on what we do and it'll be nothing too different from what we have been doing over the last 10 or 12 weeks or 12 months.

"It's going to be a snapshot of that game-plan, there won't be a huge amount of change but we have to be the best we've been all year to go and get a performance in Paris."

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