It’s important to have empathy – sometimes I can disappoint myself on this front

When I finally catch up with Ronan O’Gara on a Wednesday evening, it’s after a not inconsiderable delay to the proposed start time for the interview.

It’s not the legendary fly-half’s fault – he does a number of press interviews and journalists before me have clearly been eager to take the opportunity to ask him about all things rugby, at home and abroad.

Undoubtedly, Ireland’s second most capped player had been asked what he would do if he could swap places with Ireland manager Andy Farrell, and his role as head coach at La Rochelle in France.

But my mission is a little different – I ask what keeps him up at night, the last time he cried, his worst features.

“From time to time, I can have a short circuit,” he admits.

“I could do more listening,” he adds, “and not always assume I have an answer for everything. It’s important to have empathy and sometimes I can disappoint myself on that front. .”

Athletes are not always enthusiastic about answering personal questions. But that wasn’t the case with O’Gara, born in California and raised in Cork.

Maybe it helped that I asked him if he’d like to turn off his camera on Zoom (it was an enthusiastic “yes”). It’s a popular suggestion these days.

Ronan O’Gara kicked off this year’s Aviva Mini Rugby festivals. The National Festival takes place at Aviva Stadium in May. For more information, visit

La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara and assistant Benjamin Boboul

Do you have a morning routine?

My morning routine is a shower, I end up with a cold [burst] and have a good café au lait afterwards. During confinement I had a Sage coffee machine. It’s the best purchase I’ve ever made.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

For 15 or 16 years, I sacrificed a lot. The reason I train now is so I can eat whatever I want. I love burgers. We have a very good sushi restaurant near our house and the French cuisine is excellent. So much of my life now is about food and wine – and beer.

What are your most guilty pleasures?

I desperately need chocolate. During lockdown, I had a cup of Barry’s Tea and chocolate every night.

What would keep you up at night?

Sick children. Although last month my wife Jessica’s sick dogs kept me up many times! We have a french bulldog and a jack russell. And I have five children – Rua, Molly, JJ, Zak and Max. So you can imagine what my house looks like.

How do you relax?

Sitting outside drinking a beer or a coffee, playing golf, watching TV, biking with my family, I have no problem relaxing.

Who are your sports heroes?

Roy Keane, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Michael Bradley – all the locals inspired me.

What is your favorite smell?

Grind coffee beans in the morning.

When was the last time you cried?

Ronan O'Gara: I had tears in my eyes watching Rachael Blackmore win the Gold Cup.
Ronan O’Gara: I had tears in my eyes watching Rachael Blackmore win the Gold Cup.

I had tears in my eyes watching Rachael Blackmore win the Gold Cup. It was a strong moment. She had such a big impact on the sport. She gave young girls the opportunity to dream. It is really very important.

What’s the best health advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Your health is your wealth.’ I have no interest in going for a run at the end of the day, but 30 minutes after a run is a very strong feeling. I don’t think there’s anyone who ever regretted exercising.

What are your least favorite traits in others?

Fake. I try to create an environment where people feel they can be themselves.

do you pray?

I don’t know if I would call that praying, but I’m definitely talking to God.

What would brighten your day?

A hug from my children.

Which quote inspires you?

“Adversity makes some men beat, others break records.”

What is your favorite place in the world?

It depends on the mood. Barbados, Fiji… France also has many attractions.

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