Friday 22 February 2019

Casey takes inspiration from his sister as he eyes U-20s Six Nations

Craig Casey was in and around the U-20s squad last year, only for injury to ruin his season (stock photo)
Craig Casey was in and around the U-20s squad last year, only for injury to ruin his season (stock photo)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Fourteen months out injured is enough to force any player, regardless of what level they are at, into a period of deep reflection. For some, it will make them; for others, it will break them.

Craig Casey is recently back from one such lengthy spell on the sidelines and while there were some tough days along the way, he didn't have to look outside the four walls of his home for inspiration.

"There's a lot of support in Munster, in fairness," the Limerick native says.

"You're always kept in the loop with the seniors. If you want to meet the senior coaches, they're open to it.

"But at the time, my sister (Amy) had a fairly serious back surgery. Just seeing her trying to walk again, that's inspiring enough.

"Your injuries go to the back of your mind really and you just get on with it - you're happy to be training and happy to be walking around."

Casey has bounced back from his own setbacks and has performed well for Shannon in the All-Ireland League recently. His focus now, however, is on the U-20s Six Nations campaign.

The former Ardscoil Rís student, who was captain for the Senior Cup, was named as one of Ireland's two vice-captains, which in itself speaks volumes for how highly the scrum-half is rated within the squad.

Casey was in and around the U-20s squad last year, only for injury to ruin his season. He is determined to make up for lost time.

"I've had three surgeries," he explains. "First one started with a knee one, I got injured in a warm-up game against Leinster but I didn't realise how serious it was.

"I played that full game with the injury and obviously that made it a lot worse. So I got the surgery at the start of the summer. It was a meniscus.

"It wasn't too serious but then I had an ingrown hair on my lower back, so I had to get that removed and that scar, working with the knee rehab, it didn't really help each other.

"That set them both back for about eight months together. When I finally got back on the pitch, I did two weeks of pre-season and I tore the meniscus in my right knee. Left knee first and then the right knee the second time.

"I missed about seven weeks of pre-season and only got back at the end of October. It was frustrating.

"I was in the loop last year being in the (U-20s) camps. But look, I think you just deal with it. Injuries happen."

That kind of mental strength at such a young age will stand to Casey, around whom there are high expectations in Munster. It helps too that his family are steeped in Limerick and Munster rugby. Casey's father Ger was backs coach when Shannon won the AIL in 2009, while his uncle Mossy Lawler enjoyed a fine career with Shannon and Munster.

"It's something I've been dreaming of since I was four," Casey says of playing for Shannon in the AIL.

"I've always been in and around Shannon set-ups. To play for them, it's massive. It's a step up so you're ready for this (U-20s) sort of rugby."

Irish Independent

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