Sad news in the Sunday papers at the weekend – Ronan O’Gara will be retiring from international rugby after the World Cup. Fresh from the first major upset of the tournament when Ireland stuffed Australia, this is huge news (so for those of you who think rugby is a poor relation to football or worse “just another sport” you may go to paragraph 3).
I suspect he will be the first of many in the current Ireland team to use the World Cup as a swansong to their international careers. O’Driscoll, O’Connell, Flannery and others have been the backbone of the team for so long that there will only be so much more their bodies can take. O’Gara however holds a mythical status in the team. His kicking to touch and for penalties is pin-point accurate, his awareness of the flow of play is almost supernatural and his ability to create and get others to execute opportunities is beautiful to watch. And when the Ireland coach started another player at number 10 a few years ago, there was a national outcry and wringing of hands at the possibility that O’Gara’s international days were numbered.
And he is retiring. Age? 34!
Let’s say we give him the biblical four score years and ten, that means he has another 56 years in him. So having achieved so much at 34, what lies in store for the rest of his years?
Of course, he is only retiring from international rugby so will still be playing for Munster for a while after. But what next? Many sports stars go on to be successful in business, commentating or even return to their sports as coaches – Martin Johnson being the one foremost in English minds at the moment. There is also the speaking circuit that is very lucrative if you can get on it. He will have many options and whatever he gets up to, I doubt if it will involve sitting around watching the Irish equivalent of “The Jeremy Kyle Show”.
But what does this mean for us mere mortals who got picked last at games and somehow always ended up playing in “skins” not “shirts”? By the time we leave our main employment we might not have as many years left as Ronan O’Gara, but that doesn’t mean we should approach the change any differently to him – it is another phase when hopefully we can explore other interests, and maybe do more of what we want to rather than what we need to.
So when talking about the over 65s, maybe we should stop using the word “retire” altogether. Maybe they should be classed as newly responsibility-challenged and who want to leverage their recreational opportunities?