We all knew it was coming. Having to watch Ronan O'Gara's steady decline over the few couple of months has been difficult to stomach.
The fact is, O'Gara should never have been in the Six Nations squad to begin with. O'Gara is an Irish legend in his own right, but the majority of rugby fans knew that this was simply one tournament too far. In many ways, you could argue that it was admirable that he wanted to stay and fight for his place but in reality, a player of O'Gara's class deserved to go out at the top level and on his own accord.
He should have taken that decision upon himself after the 2011 World Cup but instead, opted to fight another day. If you were to believe what you read in the papers two years ago, O'Gara was in fact talked out of retirement by the Irish management. If this is to be true, the treatment of one of Ireland's greats is by all accounts disrespectful.
Declan Kidney's treatment of the whole situation has been baffling. The fact that he opted to select O'Gara in the squad for the opening Six Nations game against Wales suggested that he still looked at him as someone who could come on and change the game.
With O'Gara starting on the bench for the opening two games, the likes of Jackson and Madigan were forced to wait for their chance. Fast forward a few weeks later and both of these youngsters look set to be included in the match day squad for the game against France this weekend. Declan Kidney has always been a coach that is defiant in his own beliefs but this time around, he seems to have been heavily influenced by those calling for young blood.
Not many would argue with Kidney's decision, however the timing of it is just all wrong. Kidney should have been building for the World Cup last summer on the tour in New Zealand. His reluctance to do so has seen him parachute young players into a disastrous Six Nations campaign and in doing so leaves O'Gara's international career on the brink of expiration.
'There is little room for sentiment in professional sport' - an old cliche which Kidney seems to have grabbed a firm hold of in his decision. The timing of his decision stinks of desperation, of a coach who is desperately aware that his job is on the line.
O'Gara has given his country thirteen years of outstanding service. He has become Ireland's most capped player (128) and record points scorer (1,083). His stand out moment will undoubtedly be THAT drop goal in Cardiff. But the Munster man has given us so many other brilliant memories. Of course it would be fitting to see him make a ten minute cameo in Rome in a couple of weeks but that looks highly unlikely of happening.
As it is, ROG looks to be bowing out of international rugby on a whimper, which is a desperately sad way to end a truly brilliant career. Plenty of people have been quick to point the finger to him in this Six Nations campaign but what has gone before shouldn't be forgotten. A player that was continuously knocked down always bounced back from whatever it was that was thrown at him.
Both Jackson and Madigan are fully deserving of their place in this Irish squad. With all the focus and attention on ROG, this shouldn't be forgotten.
If these guys are to be the future of Irish rugby and are half as successful as O'Gara was, Irish rugby is in safe hands.
For now, the curtain looks be have been drawn on the career of one of Ireland's greats.
Thanks for everything ROG.
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