Photo credit: Connacht Rugby
From Tralee to Galway and now onto La Rochelle, Ultan Dillane will be taking his talents to the sunny south coast of France to link up with Ronan O’Gara at the French club next season.
The 28-year-old’s decision has surprised many fans, following his contract expiring with Connacht Rugby this year.
When speaking with Connacht Rugby’s official media team, he reflected on his time spent as a member of the Connacht senior team, a club which he has served for almost ten years.
“I am forever grateful to all the coaches and wider staff at Connacht I’ve worked with these past ten years. You have all helped make my dream of becoming a professional and international rugby player a reality. I’ve also been fortunate to play alongside some incredible players both for Connacht and Ireland, and I have made some friends for life.”
For all the talk of transitioning from the style of play in Connacht to the style played by O’Gara in La Rochelle, there is another adaptation that must also be taken into consideration.
Dillane is moving to another country for the first time in his life without having a full grasp of what’s in store, a challenge countless Irish people have or inevitably will endure when migrating.
According to Noel McNulty, owner of McNulty’s Bar in La Rochelle and a resident of La Rochelle for over twenty years, Ultan’s transition should be quite smooth.
When speaking with Noel, he often referred to how welcoming the town was to the players that have arrived from overseas, particularly the good players, he joked.
“Over the years, we have had many English-speaking players line up for La Rochelle and the locals have always been receptive to them, especially when they play well. It is a club with a rich history and the fans are passionate about their rugby and the players.”
La Rochelle is second to none, with regard to its lively seaside city lifestyle, as Noel put it, by moving to La Rochelle, you are making “serious improvements to your quality of life.”
He says La Rochelle has a lot to offer as a city, noting the Café du Nord as a great lunch spot, the Tour de la Chaline history tour and the Musée de Nouveau Monde art, to name a few.
While moving from one city to another may be difficult for most, the Portlaoise native said that La Rochelle, despite being completely different weather-wise, is quite like Galway in a way.
“If you look at the size of the cities, they are quite identical. For someone moving from Galway to here, I don’t think Ultan will struggle to fit in whatsoever.”
It appears Dillane will be moving to the Galway of France, as described by McNulty.
As the sun sets on his Connacht career, fans of Ultan are hopeful that the move for both player and club works out well.