Turning down a two-year contract extension with Munster was both the hardest and easiest decision Denis Fogarty has made. But he needed to go elsewhere — even though he had absolutely nothing lined up.
Fogarty broke into the Munster side in 2004 and for the next eight years went through a rollercoaster of emotions.
He was in and out of the team, going from Heineken Cup rugby to sitting on the bench for the second string, and in the end decided enough was enough and opted to seek new pastures.
“In one sense it was the hardest decision, to walk away from a side that was like family, your native team and all that, but on the other hand, it was the easiest decision to make,” said the 32-year old, who this week announced his retirement from the game with a shoulder injury.
He has spent the past four years in France, moving initially to Aurillac, then to Agen for two seasons and this term has been with Provence Rugby in Aix-en-Provence.
“I take great pride in making the decision in initially coming over to France. Not many people had done it and I just backed myself to make the change.
“I had hurt my shoulder again and I was in a bad place that season. Mentally, I was just drained. I felt I needed to change and I spoke to Tony McGahan. I have a huge amount of admiration for him.
“I had done it all with him, he had picked me, he dropped me, but I always had a great relationship with him.
“They had offered me a two-year deal and he said he would back me in whatever decision I made. He wasn’t going to be around after that and I just felt I needed to move.
“I had been with Munster for several years at that stage but I just didn’t nail down a spot. It just didn’t happen for me. You have to be honest with yourself and say ‘it’s not working’ and move on.”
When he came into Munster in 2004, Frankie Sheahan and Jerry Flannery were ahead of him. He was on the bench for the 2006 Heineken Cup final victory but then Damien Varley and Mike Sherry starting appearing on the scene in subsequent years and they were getting game-time.
So, Fogarty could go from playing in the Heineken Cup to heading over to some obscure club in Wales or England for a B&I Cup tie when the next round of games came round.
That, and a troublesome shoulder injury which has now brought a halt to his career, left him frustrated and he took the decision four years ago that he wanted out.
And that was despite a two-year contract extension being laid out in front of him by the Munster side he had grown up with.
“I’m sure a lot of people thought I was insane. I had a two-year deal with Munster on the table and I was turning it down even though I hadn’t clue where I was going.
“I’d never heard of Aurillac, I never knew Jeremy Davidson was coaching there. He rang me when he heard I was leaving but I had to look up what division they played in and where the place was!
“It’s in the middle of nowhere, a lovely place, but it was difficult.”
The rugby was great though and his superb performances saw him selected as hooker on the Pro D2 team of the season, before relegated Agen came in looking for him.
“I was ambitious and wanted to go for it. However, that wasn’t a good decision and it didn’t work out. I spent two years there and then got injured over a year ago.”
The shoulder injury has seen him play little rugby this season and now he has no choice but to look to life beyond playing.
He and his wife Sarah have a daughter, Esmee Rose, who is just one, and they are expecting their second child in September. There are no plans to return to Ireland just yet.
“I’m not ready to go back to Ireland, we’re not ready. We really enjoy the lifestyle here and intend to remain in Aix-en-Provence for at least another year. Something may come up but I want to explore other things and am looking at working in the academy here and am talking to the club. We’ll see what happens.”
Just the latest turn for a man who has never been afraid to do something different.
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