Friday 22 September 2017

'It was a lonely place' - Luke Fitzgerald on end of his rugby dream

A fighter: Luke Fitzgerald
A fighter: Luke Fitzgerald
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Former Ireland and Leinster star Luke Fitzgerald has spoken of the most difficult nine hours of his life.

Sitting alone in his room, he battled to accept that injuries had brought his professional rugby career to a crushing end.

Luke - who now works as a commentator, while continuing his career in finance in the Treasury Department of AIB bank - said that the sense of unfulfilment that haunted him was the most difficult aspect to deal with.

"I was stuck up in my room for about nine hours or so. All the texts were coming in commiserating and that was tough," he said of the day he announced his retirement.

"I feel like I have a good head on my shoulders and that made it easier - but in terms of the human element, that was definitely the toughest day. That was a lonely enough place.

"It was the disappointment that it had all ended there. There was definitely a sense of unfulfilment in that I didn't really get to deliver on all the promise and potential I had. That was the most difficult part to it all."

Luke, who has been appointed an ambassador by the IRFU to promote the final stages of the Guinness PRO12 championship, said he spent time on his own to get his head around the change and then turned to his parents and family who were a "huge support".

"My dad is great but my mother gave me great advice as well. She said: 'In the bigger picture, there are far worse things that happen. At the end of the day, no one has died and you are a capable guy and you will do well in the next phase.'"

Despite a neck injury ending his own sporting career, Fitzgerald brushed off the idea that The Lion's Tour was leaving Irish players at risk of injury going into the following season.

"It is a lot of rugby at the end of the season but between the quality of rugby in play, how much you learn from going on the tour, the confidence it instils in you and the fact that you are exposed to new coaches and new experiences, the benefits far outweigh the negatives."

Speaking about Johnny Sexton, he said: "Johnny needs to go on the tour. It's the pinnacle of your career… he has gone to a guy that is the best physio in the country and he is in the best shape of his life. He just got a little unlucky so far in his comeback to the Six Nations, he probably tried to push it just a little bit too much to get back for the first game, but hopefully he is going to be fit for the French game and he is in great condition so I think he needs to go on the tour."

He added: "There are no risks - if you go in fit."

The Guinness PRO12 championship final takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, May 27.

Sunday Independent

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