Ulster’s twice-capped Irish international lock, Dan Tuohy, is delighted to be back playing at what he calls “the business end of the season”
The fear that he might not be part of it was a factor in the fitness battle he now has won.
Tuohy, who suffered a quad tear whilst training with the Ireland Wolfhounds following Ulster’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals qualification, this week admitted that his colleagues’ performances in his absence had been a spur.
“I’m really impressed with how the boys have been playing. Watching them against Cardiff made me jealous and made me want it more,” Tuohy revealed.
“You want to be part of it; no-one ever wants to be injured. I just wanted to be part of the good times that are coming for us in the next couple of months.”
The first match in the march towards those “good times” is tonight at Firhill where Ulster face Glasgow Warriors in the Magners League. It will be Tuohy’s first start in the competition since December 27 when he packed down in the Ulster engine-room alongside Johann Muller in the side trounced 30-13 by Leinster at Ravenhill.
One 33-minute run as a replacement against Benetton Treviso on January 7, followed by another of identical duration last Friday night against the Dragons, is the extent of his on-pitch Magners League involvement in 2011. Small wonder he is itching to play.
In truth, 2010/11 has not been what he envisaged for having faced the All Blacks and Wallabies in Ireland’s ill-fated summer tour from which he was one of the few to emerge with his reputation enhanced, the former Exeter Chiefs player had been hoping to kick on.
Things were going very nicely, until he suffered that unfortunate quad injury whilst training with Ireland Wolfhounds in late January. The nature of his mishap served only to add insult to injury.
“It was quite bizarre, really. It was my first day with the Ireland boys and we still don’t know what happened. I had a bit of a stiff leg — it felt like a dead leg — but I was training okay. But it kept getting heavier so I just dropped out of training.
“I had a scan that evening and we found out there was a tear.”
As a result he missed out on the matches against Scotland at Netherdale and England Saxons at Ravenhill.
He also missed Ulster’s Magners League outings against Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff and Aironi.
“Being injured — and seeing the guys play so well without you — is one of the hardest things in rugby,” Tuohy admitted.
“Although I’d missed two ‘A’ games with Ireland and two away games when Ulster played Ospreys and Scarlets, it wasn’t until the home match against Cardiff that it really hit me.
“The boys played fantastically at Ravenhill and that made me realise how much I missed it. They put in a brilliant performance against Cardiff and I wasn’t part of it.
“I just felt a million miles away that night, even though I’d only been out for four or five weeks. But that’s the nature of it; if you aren’t playing you feel you’re a long way off from what’s happening on the pitch.”
He was appreciative of the company of Paddy McAllister, BJ Botha and Ian Porter as he worked to regain his fitness. Like him they were battling to get back and they managed to keep one another going as they worked away from the main group.
“You need guys who are at pretty much the same stage as you on the road to recovery. Without that you’d be on your own, which is very lonely and difficult,” Tuohy confides.
“But a lot of it was just working with Kevin Geary, our conditioning coach, and Jonny Davison, plus a lot of hours on your own and never really on the pitch with the lads.”
The timing of his recovery is something of which Tuohy is appreciative.
“I’ve been working hard, regaining my fitness and getting myself ready to come back. Fortunately I’ve done it in good time for the end of the season,” he says.
Good news for Tuohy, Ulster and Ireland, but maybe not for Glasgow.