Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Veteran Brady to test himself at French club

After 11 years at Ravenhill, Ulster's Nigel Brady is joining forces with Jeremy Davidson who coaches Stade Aurillacois in France

As he stood amidst the construction work currently ongoing on at Ravenhill, Nigel Brady reflected on the changes made to the home of Ulster rugby since he first turned out for the province 11 years ago.

Last week, the man who is about to call time on his Ulster career, was at the ground to pass on a few tips to the stars of the future hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Speaking at the Domino's Pizza Primary Schools' Mini Rugby Festival, he said: "My first game here was a long, long time ago now but the stadium's a lot different from when I arrived."

It's not just the surroundings of course, there has been much change throughout Ulster Rugby since he made his debut in 2002.

Brady however has been a constant, racking up 119 appearances despite playing understudy to Rory Best for the majority of his time with the side.

This season however marks the end of his Ulster career as he embarks to pastures new with a move to Stade Aurillacois in the French D2.

While there is obviously a sadness that he will no longer represent the province he has served so well, Brady is excited for a new challenge both on and off the field.

"I've had a lot of good years here, thankfully I've been lucky with injuries so I've been able to have that longevity," he commented.

"But I'm very fortunate to get the chance to go over to France at this time of my life and it's something that I'm really looking forward to."

And while the surroundings may be unfamiliar next term, there will be one instantly recognisable face, that of former teammate Jeremy Davidson who is coach at the Auvergne outfit.

Unsurprisingly the Ulster connection was instrumental in the move, as noted by Brady: "I've played and worked with Jeremy for a fair number of years at Dungannon and at Ulster so I have a massive respect for him.

"Once he had initiated contact and we had a few chats on the phone I really started to think about it and in the end he was a massive influence on my decision to move away."

With the signing announced earlier this month, the Ravenhill faithful, with the help of the 33-year-old's Ulster team-mates, were given a final opportunity to give the hooker a fitting send-off as he took to the field for the final eight minutes of the RaboDirect Pro12 showdown with Cardiff Blues two weeks ago.

His substitute appearance was met with a rousing round of applause and it was an experience the 2006 Celtic League winner admits meant a lot to him.

"It was incredible and very humbling," he admitted.

"I didn't really feel I was going to feature for the rest of the year but I think a few of the boys had something to do with it. It was a nice touch and it's something that I'll take with me forever."

Before travelling to sunnier climbs, there is the matter of this weekend's Pro12 final with Leinster and, while he is not expected to be involved in proceedings, the former Dungannon man admits it would be special to conclude his Ulster career with a victory.

"It's been a long season, right from the start of August and there have been so many people involved, so if we could cap it off with winning the title outright it would an be awesome way to end, especially in the RDS against Leinster," he added.

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