Tuesday 23 January 2018

I was gutted looking over it because that's not how I play, says Cian Healy

Cian Healy can now feature against France at the Aviva Stadium
Cian Healy can now feature against France at the Aviva Stadium
David Kelly

David Kelly

With so much ire circulating around the Irish international team of late, and much egregious stuff being directed towards decent folk, particularly coach Declan Kidney and Ronan O'Gara, it was perhaps inevitable that some would trespass directly into the squad itself.

Much as they have attempted to buttress themselves against all external pressures, to the extent of the players pointedly refusing invitations to back their coach beyond this summer's expiration of his contract, the dyke could not hold perpetually.

And so it was that Cian Healy, returning from a suspension enforced after a stamping incident against England last month for this week's tie with France, revealed that he had received hate mail.

Would that this was someone quibbling with Healy's penchant for Jay Z, rather than Joe Tex, or, noted artist that he is, cubism as opposed to realism. Sadly, this cut to the bone, sufficiently so that he dared not reveal the contents he ever so briefly scanned from the venal pen of someone clearly deserving of contempt, not just pity, if mere sport distracts him so sadistically.

"Yeah, I got a pretty violent letter into camp," said Healy, whose public image betrays someone who might normally shrug off such an occurrence. "I read the first line and gave it to Mick Kearney, the Ireland team manager and let him dispose of it," added Healy.

"I don't know who it was or where it came from. There was no name or address. It was sent to the IRFU. I wouldn't like to repeat it, it was a rough enough letter. It's the first time I've ever received anything like that."

The disciplinary process surrounding his well-publicised moment of recklessness was difficult enough to endure, handicapped by ham-fisted legal boobs from both Six Nations Ltd and the IRFU. Healy, who at all times admitted his guilt, was then further subjected to widespread judgment in a variety of media outlets, which sought to issue their own summary form of punishment.

But this, he felt, was an unwarranted intrusion. Mercifully, although clearly taken aback by the forcefulness of the anonymous epistle, Healy has attempted to quickly despatch it, appropriately, into the trash can.

"I shifted that one quick enough because it takes a certain type of person to send a hate mail," said Healy. "Those people don't really matter to me, I can shift that stuff handy enough."

His own sense of embarrassment and shame was sufficient unto the crime as it was, ensuring that he let his team-mates down, not just for the rest of that England game, but the subsequent Scottish date which he also missed.

"I had to look back on it to be honest because I didn't really know what happened," he explained. "I didn't really know there was something wrong until I checked the phone and there was a lot of heavy messages on it.

"It was bad. I was pretty gutted looking over it because it wouldn't be how I play. It was just a case of not doing what I'm meant to do right and that can result in being off-fire and not being very professional."

As a result, his character was impugned widely. Ironically, his previously good character ultimately mitigated his sentence. Still not enough for the public judges and juries.

"I back myself to be a hard physical player, pretty annoying to play against but when people are saying 'dirty' to me and all that like, I'm thinking 'Jesus'. I felt I was taken down a few pegs," he said.

"I deserved to get sanctioned for it and it is something I'll move on from now. I'll try and put that behind me. My conduct in the past was taken into account at the hearing.

"Ah look, let people say (what they want). I'm after learning that you are not going to change too many people's opinion too quickly.

"So I'll just leave them think what they want and I'll get on with my own game."

There were suggestions that Healy's lack of clear-headedness mirrored his team's tactical and physical slippage during that debilitating England defeat.

"I didn't think that, to be honest. I thought we were in a good place at the time. A leg came over the ball and I ran around to push it off it and that happened," he said. "A little fight broke out but that was something different to do with that incident.

"So, things like that happen in games. You can't say that, or someone hitting someone else, was us getting frustrated. Sometimes aggression can lead to a loss of control but that was just a day that... I went to do something and I just didn't do it correctly.

"But then sitting out the Scottish match, that was a disaster. The whole lot of it. That whole week I spent getting flogged in fitness and sitting through selection meetings and sitting down on the couch ready to watch the game. I didn't really like that much."

He has seen the flip side of this particular coin, when John Hayes' equally reckless flailing boot caught him flush during an interprovincial a few years back.

For Healy, it is part of the occasional flirtations such a physical game has with lawlessness.

"At the time I wanted to kill him but you've got to park that," he smiled laconically. "I knew from being around him that that wasn't who he was, so it is easy enough to move on from stuff like that."

As he must do so again.

Irish Independent

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