My Sporting Life: Mongoose CEO Chris O’Donoghue on his love of tennis


This week Chris ODonoghue, chief executive of agency Mongoose, on why tennis needs a rule change and his Irish Rugby World Cup dream.

1. What are your sporting passions?

There arent many sports I dont love and Im lucky enough to work with brands and rights holders that give me exposure to most sports, from American Football to fencing. If I had to choose, tennis and rugby would be top of the list, especially with Ireland doing well at the moment.

Read more: My Sporting Life: M&C Saatchi Sport boss Steve Martin on a life in rugby

2. How did you first get into sport?

I went to a Quaker school from seven years old which provided the opportunity to excel at pretty much anything from academia to arts and crafts to sport. I was OK at the latter and rubbish at everything else.

My summer highlight was Wimbledon – my father used to order me old programmes and Id study the gentlemens singles roll of honour while watching the tennis on television. As a result, my party trick now is being able to name every mens winner in the Open Era.

3. Do you also participate in sport?

Ive played tennis since I was three. I was lucky enough to have a tennis court in my garden while growing up in County Waterford in Ireland. Both my parents represented Ireland in tennis at a number of levels and my mother won pretty much everything there was to win in the country. Tennis is still my first sport but I have taken up middle distance running as it fits into the diary easily and doesnt require a partner or opponent to train.

4. What is your most cherished sporting memory?

I have two. The first is Boris Becker diving around the court to become the youngest man to win Wimbledon at the age of 17 in 1985. Today my most prized position is his Puma racquet which was signed by him the following year, when he also won the Championships.

The other moment was my first live rugby match with my dad. It was the 1991 Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Lansdowne Road when Gordon Hamilton charged 75m solo to put Ireland in the lead against Australia in the last few minutes. Unfortunately Michael Lynagh scored at the other end three minutes later to move Australia on to the semi-final.

5. And your greatest hope in sport?

For Ireland to host the Rugby World Cup. Not winning the right to stage the tournament in 2023 still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Having led the process in the early stages, to see the Scottish and Welsh votes go elsewhere, not supporting their Celtic relations, was truly gutting!

6. If you could change one thing about sport, what would it be?

I would get rid of the second serve in professional tennis. This years Wimbledon semi final between John Isner and Kevin Anderson, which lasted over six and a half hours, highlighted the challenges with the mens game. The fifth set comprised 50 games of unstoppable serves.

I believe that having to win the final set by two games is fantastic for TV, which was proved in the other semi-final between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, which Novak won 10-8 in the fifth set.

If the governing bodies changed the rules to only have one serve per point we would see far more rallies on all surfaces which would lead to a far better spectacle and fan experience. No fifth set tie break, no second serve.

Chris ODonoghue is chief executive of Mongoose Sports and Entertainment, whose clients include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Lucozade Sport and The North Face.

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