Monday 20 November 2017

Holland forced to call time on young career that promised so much

Few would have predicted that a mere two days after his 25th birthday, Holland would be announcing his retirement. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Few would have predicted that a mere two days after his 25th birthday, Holland would be announcing his retirement. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

And just like that one of the country's brightest young talents is forced to prematurely call time on a career that had promised so much.

The news had been expected but even still when it was confirmed yesterday, it was the latest reminder of the fickle nature of a professional rugby player's career.

Johnny Holland's route to become Munster's first choice out-half was far from conventional and the setbacks that he had to overcome made last season's resurgence all the more pleasing.

It wasn't until the aftermath of his hamstring tear in November 2014, that the severity of the injury was fully revealed but even still, few would have predicted that a mere two days after his 25th birthday, Holland would be announcing his retirement.

Just as Holland was making strides in the Munster Academy, 16 months out of the game was the last thing he needed.

Outstanding

But he battled back and stepped into the breach last season when his province needed him most. The former young player of the year was outstanding in Munster's bid to secure Champions Cup rugby and his try-scoring performance against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium seemed like the beginning of something special.

Holland played through the pain and, as he said, 'it has become impossible to win this battle'.

Holland's story isn't one that began in either of Cork's rugby nurseries, PBC or CBC, but rather through the club game, which is a pathway that too often gets forgotten about nowadays.

Rugby barely featured in Coláiste Chríost Rí and it wasn't until Holland's father Pat encouraged him to join Dolphin and subsequently Sunday's Well, that his performances in the AIL were rewarded with a place in the Munster Academy.

"Johnny is a guy we have certainly kept an eye on. I think he'll really benefit now from a full pre-season and then a full build-up into next season to put his best foot forward," Joe Schmidt said in June.

Gifted with a sweet left foot and exquisite vision, Holland leaves behind him an empty sense of what might have been.

"This has obviously been a very tough time for me, and ultimately it is a decision that has been taken out of my hands," he said.

"As much as this is beyond my control, I don't want to look back on my career with any sadness."

With the odds consistently stacked against him, Holland can be proud of what he achieved and look forward to the next chapter.

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