Monday 21 August 2017

Fitzgerald eyeing September return

Leinster players Sam Coghlan Murray and Luke Fitzgerald with the young players at the Herald Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in Coolmine. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Leinster players Sam Coghlan Murray and Luke Fitzgerald with the young players at the Herald Leinster Rugby Summer Camps in Coolmine. Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster's luckless Luke Fitzgerald has targeted a September return to action after undergoing the fourth surgery of his troubled career.

Fitzgerald broke down barely a week into his pre-season build-up with Leinster last month and conceded defeat in his efforts to avoid yet another trip to the operating theatre.

The 2009 Lions star went under former Meath All-Ireland winner Gerry McEntee's knife three weeks ago, this time to amend a recurring problem that has affected his ability to swing from the hip.

Constant pelvis, lower abdomen and groin injuries dogged the 26-year-old for the latter half of last season's Pro12-winning campaign and, after surviving complicated neck and knee operations, Fitzgerald is hoping for a break – a lucky one.

"I came back from holidays and I was planning to do 10 days training to see how it would react from that," Fitzgerald said yesterday, as Leinster unveiled plans for a major operation of a different kind on the RDS.

"After the first day or two, it just wasn't working. I can't do this anymore."

Fitzgerald toyed with the idea of visiting hip specialist, Ernest Schilders, who has treated a host of Premiership footballers, but instead preferred the local option provided by the former Meath midfielder.

McEntee has operated on a number of sports stars and was credited with being pivotal in saving the life of Everton defender Shane Duffy, in 2010, when the player was injured in a freak training accident.

"I was happy with having Gerry, especially because he offers local, easy referrals, it's easy to see him," explained Fitzgerald.

"I thought he was superb and he gave me a huge amount of time. He saw me on a Wednesday and then got me in on the Friday three weeks ago.

"This will be right. I've just got to take the time now, let everything heal up, do the rehab correctly. It is just a matter of being exact on the three months.

"It's an interesting area, the pelvis, because other players can play through the injury I have, especially props because they don't need as much speed as a back-three player.

"But for someone like me it's a huge deal because if I can't sprint, I can't play. This is not as definitive as an ACL or the knee surgeries I've had. The doctor's pretty confident of the recovery time so we'll see.

"It's a three-month injury but I'm looking at probably getting back first week in September or slightly before that.

"Obviously it's within the time frame that I've been given but I think most people aren't as lucky to be in a set-up like I am, with a rehab coach, a physio, a strength and conditioning guy all available to me every day.

"So given all that special support, Gerry thinks there's maybe a chance that I could even shorten the time scale."

Fitzgerald had been in flying form prior to the Six Nations and had been marked as a definite starter in Joe Schmidt's side until suffering the problem in a Pro12 clash against Ospreys; the more he attempted to defy the injury, the more the injury defied him.

"Surgery was a bit of a last resort, really," he admits after a turbulent six months which, given his injury background, is sadly familiar territory.

"You kind of have a couple of markers to hit with the rehab. Eanna Falvey (Ireland team doctor) runs a great clinic out in Santry and in fairness about 90pc, I think, are cured and don't have the problem again.


"But I'm obviously in that 10pc that doesn't really recover. I'm pretty lucky to have him in the set-up because in fairness he did get me a few games towards the end of the season when I might not have got any.

"I got about three or four after January so he has a part to play in that plus the medical guys are pretty experienced in Leinster, they would have dealt with a lot of guys who would have had issues with it. I would thank them even though it was a very frustrating period trying to get back.

"It has been an unbelievably frustrating process and I'm sure there are lots of guys who really struggled with it, it wasn't just me," he said.

"I know from talking to a couple of guys in football and that, who I've met through a couple of things, that they've had trouble with it as well.

"I've keep in contact with a few people and it just seems to be a nightmare of an area, some people seem to recover and some don't and I'm obviously that case that didn't.

"It probably stemmed from me pushing that bit too hard to get back for games, so I probably only have myself to blame in certain aspects of it anyway."

Irish Independent

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