ARMED with the last remnants of his Leaving Cert French from Bandon Grammar School, Darren Sweetnam feels the chance to move to La Rochelle in France until the end of the season was too good to turn down.
The Dunmanway man, who was out of contract with Munster in the summer, left the province last month to join the Top 14 high flyers – as medical cover – until the end of the season, but he hopes this will lead to a contract offer for next season.
‘I came over here on a medical joker contract for three months and hopefully if I impress and go well there might be something else on the table. It’s risky but it’s a great opportunity,’ Sweetnam told the Munster Rugby website.
‘I’ve left my home club, my comfort zone, and moved over here with my Leaving Cert French. I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance.
‘It probably hasn’t hit me yet really that I’ve left Munster, thinking that I won’t be playing in front of fans again in Thomond Park or Musgrave Park.
‘It happened so quickly, I packed my locker up on the Friday and only got to say goodbye to a few in person and I just put a message into the squad group and flew out then. It was all very surreal.
‘My last game in front of crowds was against Scarlets in Thomond Park and if you asked me then would I be in France playing for La Rochelle over 13 months later I would have laughed at you, so in that sense it has all been a bit of a whirlwind few weeks.’
Playing for Munster was a childhood dream for the West Cork man who made 92 appearances for the province and scored 22 tries. He joined the Munster Rugby Academy in 2012, moved up to the senior squad in 2015 and made his mark during the 2016/17 season. The winger’s rise also saw him earn three Ireland senior caps between 2017 and 2018.
‘There have been so many standout moments in the red jersey for me, games like the Maori game, the Glasgow game after Axel’s passing, and Toulouse in the quarter-final of the Champions Cup to name a few, but they were all special days,’ Sweetnam said.
‘I grew up wanting to play for Munster, it was always my dream, and while this isn’t the ideal way of how I wanted it to end, very few players really get the ideal ending.
‘There is nothing better than running out in a packed Thomond Park stadium, it’s incredible, they are the best fans. I saw what Holl (Billy Holland) said, and he’s right, it gives you a lift and it makes you play above yourself.
It means more, just playing for your home club in front of your family and friends, and it’s very special.
‘I really just need to take this opportunity now, and who knows what will happen in the future.’