Denis Leamy another casualty of war
Munster star forced to hang up boots by game’s relentless physical demands
And so another one bites the dust. The perilous position of Ireland's leading front-line players has been once more exposed with a ruthless brutality that, with macabre irony, mirrors the ritual, merciless physical pummelling their bodies undergo on a weekly basis.
Denis Leamy is just 30, but already his primary profession is beating an unnecessarily hasty retreat into the rearview mirror.
It is quite astonishing to think that of Munster's 2008 Heineken Cup-winning squad, a third have now retired and, like him, few of them have had the luxury of choosing to do so on their own terms.
The consolation for Leamy, as he ponders life ahead, is that he will have the good counsel of similarly stricken colleagues such as Jerry Flannery and David Wallace to rely upon.
Others, such as his similarly celebrated colleague from Ireland's golden generation, Shane Horgan, will also be available outlets from which to draw succour.
And yet there have been so many others; few would recognise Keith Matthews or Robbie Morris if they walked down Grafton Street, but this Connacht duo have also recently succumbed to the toil of this most brutal occupation.
One wonders that if the IRFU did not already manage their players with such care and consideration, how much higher the personal and physical toll might be?
That Leamy managed to achieve so much in a career that, even six years ago he admitted regularly resulted in him "getting beat up all the time", owes much to a depth of character and bottomless determination.
Hewn from a 150-acre beef farm near Cashel, where hurling, not rugby, was the focal point, his immersion in the oval ball game would be harnessed as a 15-year-old day pupil at Rockwell College.
No more than his physical attributes, Leamy's skills were generally acknowledged to be of the finest quality -- after all, he once deputised at centre for Munster.
He was a rugby footballer in its truest sense.
He was also no shrinking violet; banned for a junior World Cup after one violent outburst too many as a hot-headed 20-year-old, he retained his short fuse but channelled enough energy to transform himself, for a time, into one of Europe's best back-rowers.
A cruciate ligament injury in 2003 threatened his introduction by Declan Kidney to the Munster fold, but he would recover and temporarily take Wallace's place in the team.
His peak arguably arrived in the mid-2000s, during which time he annexed two Heineken Cups, three Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam. He was the sole try scorer in Munster's second European win against Toulouse in 2008 and when Stephen Ferris departed early in the Grand Slam decider against Wales a year later, Leamy delivered a display of immense, controlled aggression.
The All Blacks don't rate many players, but they rate this former Boherlan-Dualla hurler; a hat-trick of displays against the silver fern from 2006 -- obviously all lost causes -- heightened the respect he had already earned this side of the equator.
Since the Grand Slam days, it has been more darkness than light; crunching cameos for Munster against the All Blacks and Perpignan, even during the famous 41 phases this year, being followed by yet another injury set-back.
His body could rage against the dying light no more. That he is not alone reflects the bitter cruelty of a sport whose capacity to enthral so many of us has claimed another victim.
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