Wednesday 18 July 2018

Star winger delighted to extend his deal at the province

Connacht's top try scorer is eyeing a big finish to season after securing his future at club

Matt Healy with team-mate Darragh Leader after scoring his side’s fourth try against Brive in the Challenge Cup
Matt Healy with team-mate Darragh Leader after scoring his side’s fourth try against Brive in the Challenge Cup

Daragh Small

With eight tries in five European games this season it's no wonder Connacht Rugby were desperate to snap Matt Healy up until 2020, and on his 29th birthday, on March 14, the former Lansdowne winger was only delighted to accept the offer.

Since he made his debut in 2012-13 the winger has become a fans' favourite at the Sportsground, and more importantly the province's top try-scorer too.

Despite a slight blip last season where a recurring hand injury stifled his marvellous exploits, Healy has come back with a vengeance in 2017-18.

It's now 44 tries in 105 appearances and with a familiar foe on the horizon - Gloucester in next weekend's Challenge Cup quarter-final - now would be a good time to add a few more scores.

"It's funny playing them now after losing both away games before, it would certainly be nice to get one over on them this time," said Healy.

"That's a huge game for us and to have it in the Sportsground, we saw what we can do in a home knockout game, like we did a couple of years ago against Glasgow.

"That's going to be huge for us and huge for our supporters. It's something we are looking forward to.

"But we have Edinburgh this week, so all eyes on them, but it's something that is definitely in the back of our minds."

Last season was a disappointment for everyone at the Sportsground, and having scored a try in Connacht's brilliant win over Leinster in the PRO12 final at Murrayfield in 2016, things went backwards fast for Healy.

The Dubliner won his first cap for Ireland in the summer tour to South Africa, however when he returned to provincial action he broke his hand after just four minutes against Edinburgh at the end of September.

Healy still played 14 times in Pat Lam's last season in charge but he re-injured his hand in March which meant for another extended spell on the sidelines.

"I initially broke it at home against Edinburgh. It was in the first couple of minutes that I broke the two middle fingers which I needed surgery on," said the 29-year-old.

"Looking back on it 100pc it affected my grip. Not only that, but not being able to use my hand for a long period of time really affected my hand-eye coordination.

"I came back each time really struggling to hold on to the ball. Catching balls was tough. I had to wear a hand guard that also disrupted my feel. You don't like making excuses but I have to look for some sort of explanation. Thankfully those days are behind me now.

"It wasn't to protect the bone, once that healed it healed. It was just the scar that was quite vulnerable.

Incident

"I had an incident where I came back from the original surgery and the scar was healed but it was still quite raw. I didn't wear the glove. We were playing Wasps at home. Someone stood on the top of my hand and it completely split the scar wide open."

But as Healy returned, Connacht just failed in their bid to qualify for the Champions Cup at Franklin's Gardens against Northampton Saints.

It was a desperate end to the campaign for the province, but Kieran Keane came in to freshen things.

Healy looks a new player too and that was emphatically displayed in his outstanding four-try salvo against Brive on December 16 at the Sportsground.

Healy was the star in South Africa too but despite his double Connacht fell to a last-ditch 26-25 defeat at the hands of Cheetahs.

"We had an outstanding week in South Africa and we didn't hear great things about Bloemfontein before we went over. But everyone from the squad and management, had a thoroughly enjoyable week," said Healy.

"The weather was nice but it was incredibly hot. The training sessions we did, as short as they were, were incredibly tough. The whole thing about going into the game, the prep was more about your mental preparation and preparing yourself for not only pushing yourself in an 80-minute game, but considering the altitude and the heat.

"It was more mentally challenging than anything. In the end we fell short and lost in the last minute but there were a couple of key moments in the game where the game was lost for us.

"But we put in an incredible shift. Our S&C team had us in really good shape going into the game. We did everything right leading up to the game. Our physical prep was great. It was just a bitter end to a great week."

But when he arrived back to Galway, to his fiancée Rachael and newborn daughter Sophia Lily, Healy was rewarded with a fresh contract to give him an extra boost coming into the business end of the season.

"It's always nice to have these things done.

"It's a huge privilege for me in terms of I can continue what I love doing for a living. I am doing it in a place where I love," said Healy.

"I have been here for six years now. It's definitely my home. Myself and my fiancée have started a family here. It's nice to commit my future here for sure.

"It's nice to be back scoring tries again especially after an extended drought last year. But that is coming off the back of some nice plays that we are doing.

"We are playing some nice expansive rugby at times. It's all coming to fruition."

Irish Independent

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