Eye injury forces McKinley to turn towards coaching career
RISING Leinster star Ian McKinley has been forced to call time on a promising career after losing his battle to save the sight in his left eye.
The 21-year-old out-half had been tipped as a future international, but is now contemplating a career in coaching after just six appearances for the Leinster first team.
Undoubtedly, his finest display came against Treviso last season where he scored one try and created another in a sure-footed, Man of the Match-winning display at out-half.
But even as he played, the eye injury that would end his career was always in the background.
The incident occurred when he took the ball into contact while playing for UCD against Lansdowne in the All-Ireland League in January 2010 and one of his own players accidentally stood on his eye.
He was advised that a cataract would form on the eye, but to the surprise of even his surgeon, it took 18 months for it to form. In the meantime, he made his return to action.
Three operations have failed to fix the problem and he has hung up his boots just months after being handed his first professional contract.
"I was determined to overcome the temporary loss of sight and get back playing rugby, so I was thrilled to return to training in July 2010, six months after the accident," he explained.
"It was such a great source of relief to get the chance to pull on the Leinster jersey again.
"In May, though, I played a game for the Leinster development side and I had to stop after 15 minutes because of blurred vision.
"I then sustained a detached retina a week before pre-season and three operations over this summer couldn't save my sight in that eye.
"I officially advised Joe (Schmidt) about my decision last week after consulting with Mr Billy Power in the Eye & Ear Hospital.
"While I am very upset by this turn of events, now it's about planning the next stage in my life. I have a lot of interests outside of the game.
"At this point, I like the idea of maybe pursuing a career in coaching. I'm also exploring the possibility of going back to college and I'm currently in training for a triathlon in Portmarnock on September 24."
Coach Schmidt paid tribute to the promising former St Columba's College out-half.
"It is always a sad time whenever a player has to call time on his career, but it is especially difficult when a player with as bright a future in the game as Ian has to make the decision so prematurely," the New Zealander said.
"The courage and determination that Ian displayed in firstly coming back from the loss of sight and then to force his way back into the team is indicative of both his strength of character and his playing ability."