O’Gara confirmed that he was contacted by the Dolphins’ owner, Wayne Huizenga, last January with a view to becoming one of the club’s kickers, but while the Irish player did stress that “you can never say never,” he was concentrating on the current Six Nations campaign as well as the upcoming World Cup in October.
“I was flabbergasted when I received the call,” he said. “The World Cup is my goal at the moment, but you can never rule anything out. It’s something that I may consider later in my career. My discussions with the owner of the Dolphins were very basic and they’re only in the initial stage. I watch American football on television, but I’ve never played or kicked a ball. There might be more discussions at a later date. It may be an option but I want to put it aside for a while.”
If O’Gara was signed as one of Miami’s kickers, he could expect to earn a base salary of $500,000 per season, which would be approximately five times what he earns as one of Ireland’s contracted rugby players. His current deal with IRFU expires in 2004, so this latest approach could strengthen his bargaining power considerably.
Irelan’s coach, Eddie O’Sullivan, said he knew of the Dolphins’ approach. “I’ve spoken to Ronan and I’m satisfied that this will have no impact on his future with Ireland either in the Six Nations or the World Cup,” he said. “I understand the Miami Dolphins’ owner has spoken to Ronan, but that nothing has happened since. That’s where it is at the moment.”
Born in San Diego, O’Gara is an Amercan citizen and, following the World Cup, he could well consider a career move. Tom Furlong, brother of Offaly’s All-Ireland Gaelic football winning medallist Martin, was contracted to the Atlanta Falcons in the 1960s but suffered an injury in the last pre-season game and never played. Kerry GAA legend Mick O’Connell was once approached by the Los Angeles Rams, but his age at the time, 36, proved to be a stumbling block.
Meanwhile, O’Gara will have to be content with a place among the substitutes for Ireland’s Six Nations game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. O’Gara was injured during Munster’s successful Celtic Cup final against Neath, and lost his place in the international team to David Humphreys, who is currently the leading points scorer in the Six Nations championship.
The Irish, who are joint leaders with England, will be strong favorites to win against Wales. The Welsh have lost all their three games to date, and another victory for O’Sullivan’s players would almost certainly set up a Grand Slam game against England at Lansdowne Road on 30 March. Ireland last won rugby’s Grand Slam in 1948.