Six Nations Legends: Ronan O’Gara

Ronan O’Gara 27/2/2011
There are few names in the history of Irish rugby more synonymous with the Guinness Six Nations than Ronan O’Gara – and for good reason.

There are few names in the history of Irish rugby more synonymous with the Guinness Six Nations than Ronan O’Gara – and for good reason.

His drop goal in the 77th minute of the winner-takes-all showdown with Wales in final game of the 2009 Championship secured a famous victory for Ireland in Cardiff.

Not only did O’Gara’s last-gasp heroics ensure a first Championship title since 1985, his clutch kick completed Ireland’s first Grand Slam triumph in 61 years.

But O’Gara’s legacy is much more than just that one moment, with the fly-half racking up a number of records during his illustrious 13-year career at the top.

He remains Ireland’s second-most capped player of all-time with 128 appearances while he is also the top points scorer – with his 1,083 total unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.


Born in San Diego, O’Gara moved back to Ireland when he was six months old before starting his rugby career playing at secondary level with Presentation Brothers College, Cork.

He went on to attend University College Cork, winning an All-Ireland Under-20 medal in 1996, before making his Munster debut against Connacht in August 1997 – scoring 19 points.

While he was selected in Ireland’s preliminary training squad for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, he had to wait to make his international debut until the 2000 Championship against Scotland.

And O’Gara continued to pick up caps despite facing fierce competition for the No.10 shirt from David Humphreys, making a further two appearances in the 2001 Championship.

His performances for club and country earned him a place on the 2001 Lions Tour but he did not play in the Test series, instead making four appearances in the tour games.

The 2002 Championship saw O’Gara feature in all five contests from the bench but by the end of the year he began to start more regularly before making a big impact in 2003.


By the time of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, O’Gara was making the No.10 shirt his own and he played in all four of Ireland’s pool matches, plus the quarter-final defeat to France.

His influence became even more prominent in the subsequent 2004 Championship as O’Gara helped guide Ireland to their first Triple Crown in 19 years.

O’Gara left his stamp on the Championship again a year later, finishing the top points scorer, before being selected for the Lions a second time ahead of the tour to New Zealand.

After the 2005 tour, in which he was limited to a replacement appearance in the third Test, O’Gara was at the heart of another Triple Crown for Ireland in the 2006 Championship.

He also finished as the top scorer once again before going on to enjoy a stellar season for Munster, which culminated in the Irish province winning the 2006 European Champions Cup title.

And he carried his form into the 2007 Championship where Ireland clinched a third Triple Crown – missing out on the title to France on points difference – as O’Gara topped the points chart for a third consecutive year.


While the 2008 Six Nations did not live up to expectations for Ireland, O’Gara was named captain for the first time against England while he also experienced more club success with Munster as he landed the winning penalty in another Champions Cup win.

He then started all of Ireland’s 2008 autumn internationals before embarking on a fairytale 2009 Championship – one that would etch O’Gara’s name in the rugby history books.

O’Gara played an influential role as Ireland opened their campaign with wins against France, Italy and England while he overtook Jonny Wilkinson as the top Six Nations points scorer ever against Scotland in Round 4.

The stage was then set for a showdown with Wales in Cardiff, with the hosts – and defending champions – knowing they could retain the title by beating Ireland by 13 points.

It appeared to be going Wales’ way at the break as they held a slender lead, but Ireland came from behind and secured only their second Grand Slam with O’Gara’s dramatic drop goal.

O’Gara was selected for a third Lions tour later that year before coming off the bench against South Africa in November 2010 to become only the third Irishman to reach 100 caps.

And despite facing stiff competition for the No.10 shirt from Johnny Sexton, O’Gara produced a vintage man-of-the-match performance against Scotland in the 2011 Six Nations.

O’Gara ultimately announced his retirement from rugby in 2013 but he still remains the top points scorer in the history of Rugby’s Greatest Championship with 557.

He also sits fifth in the table for most Championship appearances, ensuring that he will forever go down as one of the greatest players to grace the Six Nations.