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A long way from Sligo to La Rochelle for McGowan

When you're a 6'5" lock and can leap like a salmon, it's a long way to planet earth if you miss the pill at restart time.

Especially when an unnecessarily helpful elbow has accelerated the journey south.

David McGowan doesn't even remember the most memorable event of a disastrous season, the moment when Antoine Claasen sent him into a deep, mercifully brief, sleep.

"He gave me some belt with the elbow," reports McGowan from his sun-soaked abode on the Bay of Biscay. "I hit my head off the ground when I landed but to be fair I think I was well asleep before that!"

Ballymote's marauding second-row McGowan is easily the heftiest of the wild geese to have left Connacht but this latest trauma sums up the 25-year-old's nightmare season.

His La Rochelle side are flirting with relegation from the Top 14 and he has mostly been a helpless witness to a season of ups and downs, a shoulder injury last September ruling him out until last week's abortive comeback against Brive.

His concussion means he will sit out tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final clash against Aurelien Rougerie's Clermont, the side relegated to this tier after being left behind in Leinster's Heineken Cup pool in January.


"I know our lads are pushing to do well in this competition but we've lost a few matches on the trot recently and staying in the Top 14 remains the priority at this stage," McGowan says.

The former Connacht player, who left home four years ago, has another season left on his contract. The former Irish under-age player intends on sticking it out; one wonders what it is about the idyllic setting and leisurely lifestyle that attracts him so.

He has also completed a course on manufacturing management online with Sligo IT, adjudging, prudently as events this season have demonstrated, that preparation for a life after rugby is important.

"I felt that it was important to plan ahead," he says. "In my job you never know what might happen. You could get injured and the time that you have to earn good money in rugby is limited. Doing a course enabled me to plan for a career after rugby."

The 'Maritimers' may have one last kick before their inevitable relegation (they lie 10 points from safety in second-last place); they know that Clermont have lost nine on the spin away from home and lost here at the Stade Marcel Deflandre 22-14 in November.

"It would be nice to talk about a semi-final," says McGowan. That might be the only way to get rid of his thumping headache.

La Rochelle v ASM Clermont

Live, Sky Sports 3, 7.45

Irish Independent