FORMER MUNSTER HOOKER Denis Fogarty is finding more than just a language and cultural change after moving to France.
Up until this summer, the 29-year-old Limerick native has enjoyed all the support Munster Rugby has had to offer.
Now, though, having made the move to Pro Div 2 side Aurillac Fogarty has accepted a drop in standard of facilities and competition in a bid to put himself back into the heat of battle.
At the top level, little luxuries mean a lot. And in the University of Limerick Fogarty had instant access to a support team of nutritionists, physios and team doctors. Nice things to have, says Fogarty, but by no means essential.
“The gym (in Aurillac) has everything, but it’s not as big.” He says, “There’s not a physio on site all the time, you just have to go to the physio if you need it. But we have everything else (including) a 3G pitch for training in the winter, because it gets quite cold here. So it’s good and seems to have everything you need.
“To compare it to Munster: it’s a bit lower down, but with the experience I’ve had with Munster you know what to do and how to make the most of what you have.”
Though his home province had tabled a two-year deal, Fogarty made the tough decision to uproot himself in return for a regular stint in the number two jersey, a shirt which Ireland’s southern province never have any problem filling.
“I was frustrated at Munster because I wasn’t getting a lot of game time.” He said in the interview with Red FM’s Big Red Bench.
“I wanted to get back playing games and get back to my best and was struggling to do that in Munster because of the calibre of players that were there.
“Mike Sherry had done very well when I was injured with my shoulder and Damian Varley was very good. I was struggling to nail down a spot. It was time for me to move and I was looking at France, because of the lifestyle and the style of play.”
Once word was out that Fogarty was available, it didn’t take long for Aurillac head coach Jeremy Davidson to come calling. The former Ulster stalwart had a difficult first season in charge of the French outfit, but in targeting a top-five position, convinced Fogarty to join Auvergne club along with a dozen other foreign signings.
“It’s a really lovely place, they’ve a good, decent enough squad that they’re still building. I think they came third from bottom last year, but (Davidson) only came in at the start of the season last year.
“I think he’s trying to make mark this year and, hopefully, this season should be a lot better for us.”
The Rockwell man admits that having English speaking team-mates is a major help in his adjustment, but is intent on improving on his current Leaving Cert-standard French. After all, Davidson is fluent and all team meetings will be conducted in the native tongue. So too, we presume, will the line-out calls.
“I’m just delighted to start playing again. Hopefully I’ll be first choice out here and I hope to get a huge amount of games.
“That’s what I came here to do, so I’m looking forward to it.”