Cork Constitution’s Gerry Hurley made his first AIL start of the season last Saturday after his return to amateur rugby following a two-year stint in the south of France.
Now he wants to put those French lessons to use to scratch one of the lingering itches of an impressive career.
The experienced scrum-half has scooped his fair share of honours. He was on the winning side in a Munster Schools Cup campaign with Rockwell, there were All-Ireland League and Cup runs with Garryowen, while he has All-Ireland Bateman Cup and Munster Senior Cup medals with Constitution.
He also led an Irish Club International XV to victory over England Counties in his time.
He is, however, missing an AIL medal with the Temple Hill outfit, having spent the last two seasons with Rugby Olympique de Grasse on the French Riviera.
“I was in France last year so missed out on that Con success,” Hurley said yesterday, recovering after the comprehensive 26-0 win over Buccaneers. It would be great to help the club retain the title and we’re up there challenging, although it’s notoriously difficult for clubs to win back-to-back titles and Shannon are the only club to have done that.”
The experience Hurley brings should be a big help as Con set about strengthening their position in the top four as the chase for a place in the semi-finals hots up.
He eventually called time on his French leave and elected to come home last summer, but insists he wouldn’t have changed anything about the experience he enjoyed.
“I was offered a further contract but at 33, I felt it was time to come home, even though I miss playing rugby in a very much more agreeable climate. It was an opportunity to play rugby in a different culture and it was certainly a different approach.”
Grasse is around 25 miles from Nice and is better-known for its perfume industry than for rugby, and is a very pleasant place to live. Hurley was introduced to the club by former Garryowen colleague Eoghan Hickey who knew some of the coaches from his time playing in Paris with RC Massey.
“He (Hickey) learned that the club, which had been promoted to Federale 1 (French third division) were looking for players in a couple of positions including at scrum-half. Grasse don’t have a single benefactor as such and their ambition was to retain their place in the division and we managed to do that.
“From that perspective, I would have been happy with my contribution and the club did want me to stay on for another season so it was a fairly positive experience overall.”
He did encounter some culture clashes with the type of rugby he was used to playing back home, though most notable was the attitude of players to the game’s skills.
“Not all the players worked on a complete range of skills. If, for instance, guys were very fast, but couldn’t kick very well, then they just concentrated on running. For me, watching guys not make the best of themselves was a little frustrating, I suppose.
“The quality of rugby was still pretty good and I got plenty of opportunities to play, at both scrum-half and out-half.
“What the French players were good at, they were very, very, good at, but some of them weren’t that anxious to improve on the things they weren’t good at.
“Drawing a comparison with the Irish system, you work (on your weaknesses) to make fewer mistakes, but then sometimes we don’t play here with the same instinct that they do in France. Defensively, though, I reckon French players were not quite up to speed at times and it would have been a very easy fix with a bit more organisation.”
Con were well-marshalled defensively against Buccaneers, as the bonus-point win propelled the club into second in the table. And Hurley reiterated his desire for Con to become just the second club to win successive titles.
“Look, it’s going to be difficult but we’re in a reasonable position at present and it’s in our own hands at this stage.”
A qualified PE teacher, work these days involves learning more about the family supermarket business in Midleton, while he hopes his exploits on the pitch continue beyond this season.
“I’m feeling good and ready to play on for a while yet.”
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