Tuesday 28 March 2017

'It's tough seeing your team-mates do well for Ireland'

Winger delighted for O'Halloran and Adeolokun - but he wants his place back after hand injury

Wing Matt Healy is looking ahead to a bright future Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Wing Matt Healy is looking ahead to a bright future Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Eoghan Masterson has not played a minute of rugby since February 20, and he could miss all of December too, but the Connacht flanker continues to inspire all around him.

He has made massive strides in his recovery from the shocking knee injury he picked up in Connacht's Pro12 victory over Zebre almost ten months ago.

So when Matt Healy broke his third and fourth metacarpals in his right hand, he didn't have to look too far for reassurance.

The 27-year-old Ireland international was only starting to get going in 2016-17, when his season was cut short by the most innocuous of injuries at home to Edinburgh in Round 5.

Connacht went on to win the game 28-15, their first victory of the season, but the Dublin native only played just past the three-minute mark.

"I was taking my first ball into contact, was falling onto the ground and put my right hand out to break the fall. I heard a snap straight away and I got up. It was sore enough but I have had sorer," recalls the winger.

"The doctor came over and he was pressing around the centre of my hand and there was pain. I was saying that it was fine. But then he started wiggling the centre of my hand and you could feel the two bones separate as he was doing it.

"There was no pain, which was unusual, but he said it was fractured and I just walked off. I actually broke my fourth metacarpal in nearly the exact same area, I think it was a hair-line fracture on my left hand before.

"That actually gave me more hassle coming back from that than splitting my third and fourth in two and getting pins in it. This time, it wasn't nearly as painful.

"In terms of injuries, a two-month injury, I have come to realise, is not that bad. I had been training separately to the main group with the likes of Eoghan Masterson, who has been out for a very long time.

"It has been refreshing to see his application to his rehab, and his attitude is something I have never seen with anyone else. And if I get back playing I still have a long season to go."

But it was difficult for Healy to keep the positive mental attitude along the way, especially when he watched Tiernan O'Halloran and Niyi Adeolokun tear it up for Ireland against Canada in the November internationals.

Healy, who is used to playing in a devastating back-three axis along with those two, was thrilled to see his team-mates perform so admirably, but at the back of his mind he knew it was a chance missed.

Promising

Following on from a promising summer, where he got his first cap for Ireland in the third Test against South Africa, Healy looked destined to make his mark for Joe Schmidt's side.

But the injury put paid to his chance of pulling on an Irish jersey in November and instead he was left to focus on recovering in time for Connacht's up-coming Champions Cup fixtures.

"It has been hard looking at where people have gone in the November internationals," he concedes.

"It was a huge honour for myself and my family to see me head off to South Africa and manage to get my first cap.

"I had my family rearrange some holidays which myself and my sister had planned and paid for. They did the whole three weeks over in South Africa.

"I came back with a good attitude and approach to training and I was going well. I struggled performance-wise in my first two games but I started to find my feet and play some very good rugby.

"The injury halted that, but there is still plenty of time.

"But it has been great to see the likes of Niyi and Tiernan do so well and I couldn't be happier for them.

"Niyi has worked unbelievably hard and his talent has been so evident to everyone in Connacht over the last couple of years. It's only building for him and to see him showcasing that on the world stage now.

"I am delighted for him, he has deserved everything he has got. It's up to me now to start challenging him and the rest of the wingers who are performing well for Ireland. I am looking forward to it."

The Lansdowne clubman has a remarkable try-scoring record for Connacht, with 30 in 77 appearances, but he has not touched down since he scored the final try in Connacht's famous Pro12 victory over Leinster at BT Murrayfield in May.

And having watched O'Halloran, Adeolokun and Cian Kelleher score so far this season, Healy knows he needs to get back amongst the tries.

But first it's all about getting game-time, and with back-to-back fixtures against Wasps coming up, he has the perfect platform to showcase his worth.

"It's another mental challenge, in terms of watching from the stands, you are watching these guys going so well and you are delighted for them," he explains.

"But at the same time you are thinking 'how am I going to re-stake a claim in the team'?

"It's a challenge for me to get playing the sort of rugby I was playing three or fourth months ago and definitely before the summer.

"I focus on the last couple of weeks, getting my skills back, focusing on the things I can do - I have been back doing a lot of speed work, plyometrics and speed in the gym, getting my lower-body strength back up.

"Now over these weeks it will be about getting into team plays. Being as sharp as I can be and hopefully getting a run sooner rather than later.

"That's all I can do short-term."

Irish Independent

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