Hurley learning on job as he goes back to CIT
Former Munster prop Darragh Hurley is revelling in his new role as rugby development officer for Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
Hurley joins former Munster and Connacht player Brendan O'Connor in the college's rugby department, where they are dedicating their experience and knowledge to growing the sport.
Hurley began his rugby career in his local club Kinsale RFC and later won Munster Schools Junior and Senior titles with CBC Cork.
He went on to sign professional forms for Munster and made his debut in 2006 at the Arms Park at the tender age of 20. Seen as one who was destined for the highest level, that ambition was thwarted by injury, and Hurley called it a day at the end of last season.
"After I finished up I initially took some time out away from the game but after a couple of months I felt the bug coming back," he explains.
"Out of the blue, an old lecturer of mine in CIT texted me about the job that was going as a rugby development officer. At that point I thought I was ready to go back into the rugby scene again so I applied for the job, got it and I am now delighted to continue being involved in the game."
CIT is also one of two training bases for the Munster professional team, so rugby now enjoys a high profile on campus. But how difficult is it for him to be around former colleagues in his new role?
"It is very difficult and it's hard not to be envious when you see the young guys achieving so much recently, when you see them getting through to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.," he says.
"But at the same time I'm delighted to see them doing so well. When you are young I guess you think your rugby career is never going to end, but that said I have had really exciting times which I will never forget."
He has previously represented CIT in rugby while studying business administration as a bursary student at a time when he was also with Munster as a professional -- he won 37 caps in total. So returning to his old stomping ground had its own attractions.
"It's very enjoyable so far," he says. "I have only recently taken up the post but I know the structure of college rugby since my playing days. I trained here also so I know a lot of the people already, which has helped me settle into the job."
In terms of other sports played on campus, it's a case of working with rather than against the other codes.
"Yes, very much so. We share an office with the GAA, for example, and have a good working relationship with them. They share ideas with us and we share ideas with them, maybe fundraising for the club and things like that, so it's about getting students participating in sport.
"Rugby is our thing but we just want to see young people out playing something."
Looking back on an eventful career, it's easy for Hurley to identify the good and the bad times.
"Being forced to retire from rugby has to be the ultimate low for me, especially in the last month or two when I was finishing up and trying to deal with it," he says.
"As for the highlight of my career, I think it was my first Heineken Cup cap in Cardiff at the Arms Park back in 2006-07. Playing in front of such a big crowd was unreal and I will never forget the support of the Munster crowd that day, and indeed throughout my career."
In terms of future goals, it's in a tracksuit that Hurley will be making his fashion statements.
"When I finished up with rugby I was approached by Kinsale RFC to help out with their adult team. And recently I helped Bandon Grammar School with their scrummaging clinic.
"I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed coaching and I think it was a nice way to ease myself back into rugby," he says.
"I really am enjoying helping out but at the moment I am also studying physical therapy and have another year or two to go. I'm keeping my options open and have a lot of time on my hands to decide where I will end up."
And what message will be be giving his young charges in CIT?
"You have to enjoy it... you know, realise that there is a great life for you in rugby if you really want it. Just push yourself hard enough and with a lot of dedication you'll get there. It's all about the extra work you put in -- that gets you to the top and makes you stand out from the other guys," he says.
The college now fields two adult men's teams, one freshers' team and a women's team. The men's first team won the Division 2 All-Ireland final in 2010-11 while the women's side won the Division 2 All-Ireland colleges final last year. The college now has 25 to 30 women training twice weekly and college rugby is growing from strength to strength.
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