By John Fallon
Conor Fitzgerald says he hasn’t looked back since resurrecting his career with Connacht after being let go from the Munster academy 18 months ago.
The 22-year old has been in sensational form for Connacht this season and Irish international Jack Carty has a battle on his hands for the No.10 shirt at the Sportsground.
Fitzgerald, a former Limerick minor hurler, pondered a return to hurling after being let go by his native province but any notion of linking up with John Kiely’s men changed when Connacht stepped in and offered him a chance in their academy.
Andy Friend, who arrived the same summer as Fitzgerald, didn’t hesitate in throwing him into the fray, giving him his debut off the bench just a year ago against Bordeaux Begles in the Challenge Cup and a week later started him against Sale Sharks.
He went on to make four more appearances last season and after being rewarded with a senior contract in the summer, he has kicked 55 points in eight games this season.
“I started off in Munster. I spent four years there overall but that didn’t really work out and I got an opportunity to come to Connacht and I haven’t looked back at all. It’s been great.
It’s only my second season here and I have been handed my first senior contract. That was really nice, it’s going well for me. Pre-season was long but good and the key thing was to take that form into the season.
“There are four tens here so there is good competition for places so you need to take every opportunity as it happens,” said the former Ardscoil Rís student.
His father John is a former Limerick hurler and Conor was undecided whether to try follow his path or go down the rugby route.
“Hurling is on the backfoot for now. The school was half rugby and half hurling. It was back in fourth year in Ardscoil Rís that I really had to pick one and went initially went with hurling. But I missed rugby too much and went back to it in fifth year and that’s the way it’s been since.”
Six months after arriving in Galway, his older brother Stephen also arrived from Munster, initially on a three-month loan spell and did enough to nail a two-year full-time contract.
“It was good when Stephen followed me here. He’s signed on as well for a couple of seasons so Galway is definitely home for us for the next few years and really enjoy it.
“The World Cup meant that it was always going to be a hectic campaign once it got up and running, but that’s what you want. You want to be playing all the time.” He said that recovering from the loss to Toulouse by scoring a bonus point win was important as they prepare for the two matches against Gloucester, starting in Kingsholm on Sunday.
“It was very important to bounce back after the loss away from home last week but we know we need to be much better next week back in Europe,” added the former Irish U-20.
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