Fogarty takes French leave from Munster

Munster hooker Denis Fogarty has inked a deal with French second division club Aurillac coached by former Ulster, Ireland and Lions second row Jeremy Davidson.

Though offered a two-year contract extension by Munster, Fogarty is realising an ambition to ply his trade in France and nail down a starting berth.

Due to a combination of injuries and the difficulty of getting game time ahead of Jerry Flannery, Damien Varley and Mike Sherry, the 28-year-old Cashel native started only seven matches and made 17 appearances off the bench in recent years.

Fogarty said: “Going to France was something I always wanted to do and given how my last two seasons have gone, I wanted to get back playing.

“I’m going to Aurillac, a Pro D 2 side just below the Top 14. Jeremy Davidson rang me and was keen to get me out there. We met and chatted and hopefully I’ll be their starting hooker and that’s what I wanted. Aurillac is two hours north of Toulouse and close to Brive and Clermont, quite rural just like what I’m used to back in Tipperary. I’m still coming back from a shoulder injury and I just want to start playing and get back to my best.

“I’d be a big fan of Tony [McGahan] and I was shocked when he announced that he was leaving but I always wanted to go to France and play there.

“I was in touch with Andrew Farley, the former Connacht captain now with Grenoble, who were playing in that division up to gaining promotion, and also Bernard Jackman, who was also over and back with Grenoble and so had a good bit of info about the teams and stuff.”

And Fogarty wouldn’t be departing on his own: “My girlfriend, Sarah Foley, is taking the plunge with me. What was also appealing was learning the language, experiencing a different culture, the weather. It was 22 degrees when I was out there four weeks ago. It’s a town of about 40, 000 people and rugby is the big sport, it’s huge.”

Fogarty learned his rugby at Rockwell with whom he won a Munster Schools Senior Cup medal, before playing Irish Schools, U19s and U21s before inking a contract with Munster.

He recalled: “I got my first Munster start against Connacht at Thomond Park in 2005 and was on the bench for the Heineken Cup final in 2006. I look back on winning everything possible here with two Heineken Cup medals and three Celtic Leagues.

“Hopefully I will add a British and Irish Cup medal this weekend as well. There were frustrating times as well with the injuries and I hit walls a few times trying to get back.”

Meanwhile, Munster A coach Ian Costello has named an experienced side for tomorrow’s British and Irish Cup final with Cross Keys at Musgrave Park, (Sky Sports, 5.30pm).

There are four changes, one positional, from the team that edged out Leinster in a thrilling semi-final at the RDS three weeks ago. Costello has opted for the experience of Stephen Archer over John Ryan at tight head prop while Dave O’Callaghan has recovered from injury and will replace Barry O’Mahony, who is included in the replacement panel. A vacancy has been left at right wing in the hope Luke O’Dea will be available.

MUNSTER A: S Scanlon; AN Other, D Barnes, I Dineen, D Hurley; S Deasy, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, S Henry, S Archer; B Hayes, I Nagle; B Holland (capt), D O’Callaghan, P Butler. Replacements: D Fogarty, J Ryan, B O’Mahony, B O’Hara, G Hurley, D Cusack, JJ Hanrahan.

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