The East Terrace
A man of letters?
February 26, 2010
Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara has attempted to give his critics the boot © Getty Images
Rumours are emanating from the Irish rugby camp that top-points scorer Ronan O'Gara has become an obsessive letter writer who is using every moment of his spare time to fire off complaints and warnings to all manner of people both inside and outside of rugby.
The 2009 Grand Slam winner has had a delivery of thousands of reams of paper, hundreds of envelopes and several exquisite fountain pens to the Irish team camp and is apparently devoting all his time to the either the writing of letters or studying some of the great letter writers such as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.
The British & Irish Lion caused a storm in his native Ireland this month when he took the unprecedented step of writing a letter in response to a damning opinion piece by Irish Independent hack Kevin Myers. Myers accused Ireland of 'not wanting to win' and that Kidney's selection of O'Gara confirmed this.
The controversial columnist, who has previously labelled O'Gara a 'lout', then went on to claim Kate Moss was probably as useful a tackler as the fly-half.
Debate has raged in the Emerald Isle as to whether O'Gara should have responded to the piece or if professional sportsmen should rise above such opinion pieces, however hurtful they may be. Kevin Myers has since responded with another damning piece.
However, it seems O'Gara not only stands by his letter but has decided to take things even further. Since the letter was published on February 19, sources in the Irish camp claim O'Gara has become an obsessive letter writer. He has fired off dozens of missives to team mates, coaches, managers, fans and top officials on everything from the laws of the game to the song selection on team bus trips.
"A lot of the lads were quite supportive of Ronan when he fired off that letter to the Independent," said one Irish player who wished to remain anonymous. "Players are often criticised by those with little knowledge about the sport and it can be incredibly frustrating for us. But then he seemed to get all excited about the big reaction it was having and decided to pen one to Declan Kidney after one of our training sessions. I couldn't believe it. Declan had mentioned to O'Gara that the backs were lying a bit too flat in attack during one drill and that as fly-half he should make sure he was comfortable with the team's alignment. Next thing you know Declan gets a letter about it."
A sample of the letter read: "Dear Coach, I am well able to analyse the position of my backline both during a match and on the training pitch. Indeed, I would often be accused by those whom I most trust of being my own harshest critic in this regard. However, in relation to the last training drill of the day this afternoon, I will not be scapegoated by yourself or any other coach. If you have any issues with how I arrange my three-quarters, I would be most grateful if you could outline your points in a letter by return of post. Yours sincerely, Mr. Ronan O'Gara, Grand Slam Winner 2009."
In another letter, penned the following day, O'Gara furiously attacked the team liaison officer for selecting an inferior brand of biscuits for a post video analysis meeting: "I do not accept your choice of Custard Cream biscuits for our 6pm meeting on Tuesday. At the end of a long day's training and video study, I feel that Jaffa Cakes would have been a more appropriate and suitable choice for me and the lads. Apart from being a more 'fun' food, they are also significantly lower in calories and fat than your quite frankly bizarre choice of Custard Creams. This falls well short of the catering standards I would expect from one of our main team managers. It put a dampener on the whole evening. Yours, Ronan O'Gara, Two Times European Cup Winner."
O'Gara's written complaints have also extended beyond the Irish camp and have included messages to top referees. Several match officials due to take charge of games in the near future involving O'Gara have received letters informing them he will often seem ''to be in an offside position in defence'' but in fact won't be at all.
This appears to relate to an incident in the 2005 Wales v Ireland clash when O'Gara was penalised for being offside and complained to the referee (picked up on the television microphones) that he had ''talked about this before the game'' and implied that therefore he should not have been penalised. O'Gara feels by putting such things in writing he can avoid any potential confusion during the match.
The Ireland and Munster fly-half is even believed to be considering taking the field armed with a pen, paper and a set of envelopes. "I think I could use moments between collapsed scrums and injuries to fire off a few words when the muse takes me," said the Munster man. "Perhaps in the past I've been a bit hot headed in responding to things, but writing a letter makes me feel more in control, more peaceful."
As of press time O'Gara is currently working on a template for letters he can fire off to any opposing back rows who may see fit to target him in defence and warning them to reconsider their actions.
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world