Ronan O'Gara perfectly puts into words what James McClean and his teammates mean to Ireland 11 months ago

Ronan O'Gara perfectly puts into words what James McClean and his teammates mean to Ireland

Ronan O'Gara knows all about going to Cardiff with everything on the line and an entire, gripped nation watching your every move.

The rugby legend won two Heineken Cups at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and, in 2009, landed the drop goal that clinched Ireland a Six Nations Grand Slam.

He thrived in high pressure situations but was a wreck, like the rest of us, watching on as Ireland strove to beat Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium. Martin O'Neill's men needed to beat the Welsh for the first time in the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

It was touch and go from the very outset and James McClean's strike, to make it 1-0, arrived with over half an hour to play. O'Gara did what most of us felt the need to do during the tense affair - nervously tweet out some reactions and opinions...


Those Garryowens, from the likes of McClean, Shane Duffy and David Meyler, eventually saw Ireland home and the 1-0 victory secured a playoff spot.

On The Hard Yards podcast, O'Gara put rugby to one side for a few moments to relive that memorable match. In fact, his glowing words summed up what the likes of McClean & Co. mean to the nation. O'Gara commented:

"I was gripped by Monday night.

"All the values you associate in Irish people came out. Wales were the better footballers for me, no doubt about it, but passion, heart, attitude, the will to win all came from the boys in green. It was brilliant to watch."

Well put, just like McClean's Instagram post the day after that crucial win:

O'Gara was at Ireland's Euro 2016 group game against Sweden, which ended in a 1-1 draw and he recalls the gut-churning sensation of watching Ireland play well and dominate proceedings until they took the lead, only to fall back on that lead and eventually conceded an equaliser.

"I was just hoping that that didn't happen against Wales," he said. "They did sit back but their scramble defence was incredible and their willingness to kick the ball into the stand was pretty good too."

You can listen to O'Gara and Stephen Ferris talk about Ireland and Northern Ireland's football drama below.

THE HARD YARDS - Running order

1.00 - ROG and Fez discuss both their experiences at the soccer games this weekend
3.30 - The lads talk about Johan Van Graan being appointed as DOR at Munster
14.30 - The influence of foreign signings on the provinces
22.30 - The difference between the transfer market in France and Ireland
26.55 - O’Gara and Fez talk about the unique dangers Leinster face this weekend from Nemani Nadolo
30.00 - Wasps facing Ulster in Kingspan Stadium
35.00 - Andy and Pat speak with Performance Psychologist Gerry Hussey
52.00 - The lads discuss some of the betting for this weekend’s games
56.40 - ROG and Fez answer your Twitter questions
1.01.00 - Fez gives his back row prediction for the November internationals