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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 20 October 2020
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'I forgot how good this place was': ROG moved by warm Limerick reception

“It’s great for players to taste the real Thomond Park,” says the Munster legend who was plotting their downfall.

Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park

RONAN O’GARA LOVED being back in Thomond Park.

Even the sour taste of defeat didn’t cancel out the sweet return to the scene of some of his most cherished rugby memories.

Before kick-off he made a slight wrong turn on his way to the visitors dressing room, but once on the field he knew every inch of his surroundings and cut a familiar pose as he drilled spirals down the touchline.

Jean Kleyn wins a line-out Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I forgot how good this place was if you’re a Munster player,” O’Gara said as the Racing 92 assistant coach dealt with questions after the 22 – 10 defeat.

“Last night was my first night (back) in Limerick and it was really special, really warming, the people were genuinely decent.

“When you go away you get on with your own work and what you need to do… driving in on the bus today was really cool, all the Munster flags.

Unfortunately it’s only when you’re finished you appreciate how good Munster have it. To be fair, it’s probably one of the best atmospheres in world rugby. It is that good. That’s not an understatement.”

Munster fans have every reason to be on top form these days, the 12-point winning margin was enough to guarantee the southern province second seed in the Champions Cup last eight. They’re playing an exciting, abrasive game while they’re at it; plenty to get the juices and bellows from the pit of your stomach flowing.

O’Gara points out that the atmosphere doesn’t just help the home side. There were big talents in his own squad – “fellas like Nakarawa and Nyanga” – who tend to rise to the occasion.

“That’s why it’s great for players to taste the real Thomond Park.”

Ronan O'Gara Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“There’s three nights a year that Heineken Cup or Champions Cup comes to town and the atmosphere is very different to any other games.

“That’s a credit to the knowledgeable Munster supporter – they know how to gauge it. Also, you have to take into account that Munster have qualified. They, to use local slang, beat us out the door at home [Paris] so how could they fear us?

“If we hadn’t under-performed (earlier in the pool), we could have had Dan (Carter, Weneceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux and maybe five or six or seven other players and maybe we could have tested them more.”

As it was, the test was a tough one for Munster. O’Gara’s rage following the defeat a fortnight ago was channeled into redoubled efforts. ROG wasn’t happy tonight exactly, but he certainly had reason to be proud of his players’ efforts this time around.

Ian Keatley celebrates scoring a try with Rory Scannell Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The night wasn’t about O’Gara and a homecoming though, it was about a return of a different sort – Munster, back at the top table of European rugby with nobody all that keen on coming to test them on home turf.

“It’s incredible,” O’Gara says, “because if you rewind to four months ago nobody was interested in this team: this team had lost its identity and look at it now.

“I’ve been in some good campaigns in a Munster jersey, but this current side –  they’ve lost out to a 53 metre kick in Welford Road and otherwise have a clean sweep.

“They’re on a roll, they’ll be hard to stop, they play for each other and they’ve real clarity.”

Just like old times.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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