Tuesday 17 September 2019

'I flicked on the Italy game and had to turn it off' - Ireland star Dan Leavy opens up on World Cup heartbreak

Irish rugby player Dan Leavy pictured at Vodafone’s “Ireland’s Ball” launch event in Ukiyo-e.
Irish rugby player Dan Leavy pictured at Vodafone’s “Ireland’s Ball” launch event in Ukiyo-e.
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Dan Leavy is doing his best to block out the fact the World Cup is just around the corner, so he could be forgiven for wanting to be anywhere else other than a Japanese restaurant in Dublin's city centre, at an event celebrating all things wonderful about the Land of the Rising Sun.

He is in good spirits, however, all things considered.

Leavy is almost five months into his rehab programme and even though he faces another lengthy spell in the treatment room, there have already been several small victories along the way.

That he is even talking about targeting a return before the end of this season is remarkable, such was the horrific damage that he did to his knee in the Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster in April.

Two surgeries later, his knee is beginning to look and feel normal again, and being in with the Leinster squad every day has reminded him that the long road to recovery will be worth it. That said, it doesn't make it any less gutting that he won't be travelling to Japan.

Of all the younger Irish players, Leavy was primed to make a big impression at the World Cup and he is still coming to terms with the fact that he will be watching it at home.

"I flicked on the Italy game and heard the pundits talking about it, and I had to turn it off," Leavy admits.

"I was like, 'I can't watch this'. I came back down and caught the end of the first half and it was fine.

International Rugby Newsletter

Rugby insights and commentary from our renowned journalists like Neil Francis, Will Slattery, Alan Quinlan & Cian Tracey.

"Even last year, I was injured a good bit and it was always in the back of my head that 'the World Cup is mine. That's where I am going to shine and that's where I am going to do my thing.'

"That was always my goal and then the fact it was just taken like that, was pretty tough to take."

At 25, time is still on Leavy's side to make his mark at the next World Cup in 2023, but there is no doubt that he will be sorely missed in Japan over the coming months.

While the physical recovery is already ahead of schedule, keeping the mind busy has been crucial.

"Last year when I got injured, I pretty much just distanced myself, not intentionally, but I wasn't in Leinster for months in a row," he continues.

"It's a pretty lonely path back. I'm blessed with friends and family and the support... the lads have been calling in to me and bringing me out for food. If I didn't have that I'd say I'd be going crazy.

"The physical side, the pain's nothing. It's more coming up to the World Cup now. All the chat's about the World Cup and that's pretty hard to deal with sometimes."

Leavy doesn’t have to look too far to understand the harsh reality of the other side of the coin.

Former Leinster centre Eoin O’Malley was not as fortunate when he had to prematurely call time on his career, while other various Irish sporting stars have also been in touch to offer words of encouragement.

"I’ve had a fair few injuries now at this stage, I’m pretty well used to sitting out some big games," Leavy maintains.

"With these long-term injuries you wouldn’t be able to do nine months rehab in a row. It’d be crazy, with the body burn-out as well.

"So it gives me opportunity to do things I wouldn’t usually be able to do, go on a few holidays that I’d never been on and concerts I couldn’t go to.

"I’m doing an internship in aircraft leasing in one day a week, just to keep me stimulated and develop myself off the field.

"Everyone has said the surgeries went really well. Even in the window between my first and second surgery, I felt great. My knee felt great. I have full faith that I will be back.

"But yeah, it does give you comfort. Talking to lads like Eoin O’Malley, who got a pretty bad knee injury and maybe if he had done it now, with the advances in surgery, maybe he would have been able to keep playing.

"I had a few calls from a few people who had bad injuries, Eoghan Masterson, Tom Parsons and a few other lads. David Meyler, the Irish football captain at the time. They all rang me and I told them I was walking around at the time and they couldn’t believe it.

"I’m just keeping the head down and giving it every shot I can to recover."

Dan Leavy was speaking at Vodafone's 'Ireland's Ball' launch event

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: 'Jim Gavin has achieved what Mick O'Dwyer and Brian Cody couldn't do'

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport