True Blue McKinley hoping to play in Ireland once again
Published 05/02/2016 | 02:30
Ian McKinley was once one of the brightest young talents on Leinster's books before a horrific injury tempered his progress.
The 26-year old's story has been well documented at this stage but this week, he received some positive news that was in truth, a very long time coming.
Five years ago, when playing for UCD against Lansdowne in the AIL, the out-half caught a stray boot in the face and one of the studs ended up in his eye. The consequences were damaging in the extreme.
McKinley lost the sight in his left eye, but that hasn't deterred him from playing the game he loves.
Viewed as a long-term rival to Johnny Sexton's No 10 jersey, McKinley made an impact in his six Leinster appearances. His man of the match display against Treviso at the RDS in 2011 typified just how exciting a talent he was.
Since returning to the game following three years out, McKinley has been playing his trade in Italy, where he was permitted to wear specially designed goggles while playing.
Last season he was called up by Zebre to play in the Pro12 and he lined out for the Italian side against Scarlets but was denied the chance to play against Connacht at the Sportsground due to the IRFU's regulations against the wearing of the goggles.
It was a particularly sour note for a player who had overcome plenty of adversity to get to where he was but this week, the IRFU announced that they were "accepted onto the World Rugby Raleri Goggle trial allowing those requiring the use of goggles to now apply to World Rugby to participate in the trial and purchase a pair of Raleri goggles, if accepted onto the trial."
The announcement is monumental for a player who has already dreamed of returning to these shores to play again and several campaigns later, he may well get the chance to do so.
"It's massive. . . It's amazing the stories you get from parents and kids saying they need these goggles," a delighted McKinley said.
"I've just been enjoying the last few weeks, with all these victories that have come to fruition. After all that's happened you can never predict what's going to happen. I'm very happy at the minute here, of course I'd love to come back (to Ireland) but we'll see what will happen, I'm not 100pc sure."
An official statement by World Rugby said: "It should be noted that only those Rugby Goggles carrying the official World Rugby Trial Approved logo will be permitted to be used in the trial, and all participants must demonstrate their need for the Rugby Goggles through a letter from their ophthalmologist (or similar expert) stating that there is an ophthalmic or medical need for their use. Inspections and checks may be performed by match referees to ensure that all participants have complied with these conditions."
McKinley has already been denied the chance to play in Ireland but should he get another one and should it come at the RDS, it would be a truly special occasion for both the player and the province who helped him get to where he is now.