RONAN O’GARA SAYS he still harbours strong ambitions of coaching Munster, but admits he has much to learn before reaching the level required to do so.
The 37-year-old Corkman played for the southern province 236 times before hanging up his boots in 2013, and points out that it is only natural to feel a draw towards home. Former teammate Jerry Flannery recently joined Anthony Foley in the coaching set-up at Munster, and has spoken of the pull he felt while out of the picture.
Racing Métro assistant O’Gara admits to experiencing a similar sentiment, but knows he must prove himself as a coach before any possible return to Munster.
“Obviously it’s the goal some time in the future to get back there, but it’s amazing how quickly your focus becomes about what’s on hand,” O’Gara told TheScore.ie.
For me, Munster is one of the best teams in the world – and I won’t ever view them any differently – so they should be coached by one of the best coaches in the world, which is Axel [Anthony Foley].
“I’m nowhere near that level. For me, I want to see if I can get myself to that level to be able to coach them. I think I’ve got to improve and learn how to get the best out of players.
“I’d have massive hunger in me to work with the likes of – from a backs’ point of view – Conor [Murray], JJ [Hanrahan], Earlsie [Keith Earls], [Simon] Zebo, Felix [Jones], Johne Murphy, fellas you played with. You kind of know how to get the best out of them as a player; it’s about ‘can I do that as a coach?’”
O’Gara is adamant in his belief that Foley is the man to take Munster forward in the coming seasons, building towards the peak of the European game and potentially winning trophies.
Munster’s relatively barren run is something that sits uneasily with O’Gara.
It’s hard to believe that the last European Cup was in ’08, it’s a long time now. Axel is just perfect for it, because he’s super smart and he’s local. It’s definitely his time to put his stamp on it.
“I was reading his comments about needing to get the supporters back. For a ground like that [Thomond Park], there’s nothing worse than going in to see it and it’s only a third or a fifth or a sixth full. That’s not Munster standards.”
Two Heineken Cup semi-finals in the last two seasons under Rob Penney suggest that the elements are there for Foley to help Munster make another step. However, O’Gara suggests that the gap between the last four of Europe and a title is larger than might be apparent.
“When you get into semi-finals, you do your talking on the pitch. There’s a big jump required from the semi-final to actually winning a competition. When you get to that level, you realise the small details involved in it.
Last season, it was very efficient in the early part, but then it just didn’t kick on. Is that because of fatigue or quality? But this group of players will have grown and I think they are becoming mentally tougher.
“There’s a great bunch of young players there that want success. I think they’re not happy just competing and hopefully this summer they’ll have had a massive growth and attack it hard.”