Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Ronan O'Gara says final goodbye to Munster

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27:  Ronan O'Gara of Munster looks on during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Ronan O'Gara of Munster looks on during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27:  Ronan O'Gara of Munster clears the ball upfield during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Ronan O'Gara of Munster clears the ball upfield during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27:  Ronan O'Gara of Munster is tackled by Morgan Parra and Ti'i Paulo (R) during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - APRIL 27: Ronan O'Gara of Munster is tackled by Morgan Parra and Ti'i Paulo (R) during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Clermont Auvergne and Munster at Stade de la Mosson on April 27, 2013 in Montpellier, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Ronan O'Gara played his last game for Munster in Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final loss to Clermont Auvergne.

The 36-year-old out-half will delay an announcement for a number of weeks but after 110 Heineken Cup games and 1,395 points and a record 128 international caps for Ireland, he is believed to be keen to explore new career options.

Those options include pursuing a coaching role away from Munster as he believes he needs to experience other rugby cultures before realising his ultimate goal of becoming Munster's head coach one day.

Munster, though, are keen to convince him to keep playing for one more season. They have offered him a one-year contract and coach Rob Penney emphasised the desire to keep his star out-half. "Rog will be a part of Munster for as long as he wants to be," he said.

O'Gara was in outstanding form against Clermont and, in particular, he kicked beautifully. He also managed the game expertly and turned over a couple of balls at the breakdown. It was no surprise Penney was generous in his praise of the player afterwards.

"He loves the big moments obviously and he's been great for us. Since he's come back from Ireland he's had a clear image of what he's trying to achieve, and what he wants to do.

"He's such a passionate Munster man," he said.

O'Gara made his debut for Munster in 1997 and has played 236 times for his province, 222 as starter, kicking 2,560 points in all competitions. He has won two Heineken Cups, two Celtic Leagues and a Celtic Cup with Munster and is the record points scorer in the Heineken Cup.

On the international front, he is Ireland's most capped player ever with 128 caps and has scored 1,083 points in a green jersey. He also won four Triple Crowns and, in 2009, the Six Nations Grand Slam.

He was a three-time tourist with the Lions, playing in two Test matches.

O'Gara refused to allow himself to be drawn on his future in the immediate aftermath of Munster's loss on Saturday.

He was hugely emotional after the game and that he was joined on the pitch by his eldest son Rua gave rise to the speculation he might be ready to hang up his boots.

Munster still hope to convince him to remain on and will seek to speak to him about his plans as a matter of urgency.

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