ONE of rugby's most promising young talents has been forced to quit after being blinded in one eye.
A cruel twist of fate ended the prospects for dashing young player, Ian McKinley (21), who was poised to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald.
Leinster star Ian told today how he lost his sight in one eye after a rugby injury.
Three operations have failed to repair the injury -- caused by one of his own players accidentally standing on him during a match at the beginning of last year.
"After the accident happened I was advised that a cataract would develop, but the surgeon was surprised that it did not happen until 18 months after the initial incident," said Ian.
"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.
"It was such a great source of relief to get the chance to pull on the Leinster jersey again," Ian says.
The accident happened while he was playing for UCD against Lansdowne in the All-Ireland League in January of last year.
Incredibly, the out-half made four appearances for the province last season. He was even Man of the Match in Leinster's game against Treviso last season, where he scored a try.
"In May, though, I played a game for the Leinster Development side and I had to stop after 15 minutes because of blurred vision," he reveals.
"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 (to retire) 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 with Jason Cowman (Leinster Strength and Conditioning Coach) for a triathlon in Portmarnock on September 24.
"I'm trying to stay positive because there are bigger issues in life that people face every day and everyone has been so incredibly supportive.
"I will always remember when I captained Ireland against Samoa in the Under-20 World Cup in Japan in 2009 as a particular point of pride in my career.
"I would like to thank my family, my girlfriend Cordelia, Mr Power and all of his colleagues in the Eye and Ear Hospital who oversaw the operations from the start, in consultation with Leinster's Professor Arthur Tanner and all of the medical staff at Leinster.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my playing career and I'm deeply appreciative of my team-mates, the coaching and support staff and all of the supporters who provided me with so many wonderful memories."
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt 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.
"His dedication to recover from the initial accident was an inspiration to his team-mates and I know that Ian will be successful in whatever he decides to do over the next few years."