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Healy thankful for a second chance after close retirement call

 

By David Kelly

As Cian Healy stood on the rolling green hills of the Amalfi coast in 2015, he was the only person not basking in the spectacular view of the languid ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see.

For inside there was only turbulence. He had left Dublin behind and, for all he knew, the only life he had never known. His future was now as mysterious and as unknown as the deep sea before him.

On his kitchen table lay the medical form that, although signed, had not been sealed and delivered. Had he done so, his retirement from professional rugby would have been complete.

The nerve damage that seemed to inevitably curtail his career, at the precise moment his friends and colleagues were preparing for a World Cup, had not only numbed his body but his senses too.

And then Healy felt a tingle in his previously stubbornly insensate right hand. Just a twitch. But it was enough. A sign that all was not lost.

"It was still scary," he says now, after his rehabilitation, his second chance at sport, was yet again confirmed by a spectacular display in Exeter.

"A dark enough time. I didn't definitely know. It's not like it opened up and I could write again."

He could write his own destiny now, but he would not need to write his professional death warrant.

"You'd be lost," he says. "There was a little chance. I was 27 or 28 and rugby was pretty much everything to me since school. You don't just give up.

"I went to Italy, switched off and chilled out. I got a bit of movement back in my hand and felt a bit of nerve twitching in my arm and from what the neurologist had told me any sensitivity is good sensitivity.

"Once there's a glimmer of hope you have to chase it."

Ultimately, he would play in that doomed World Cup.

He returned from Italy with hope.

"There was doubt and tough days coming back from it. I'd post-its stuck all over my house, on the fridge, coffee machine, everywhere.

"The simplest stuff. Do one positive thing today. That's only an example. My mates started laughing when they came into the house. Each to their own."

His approach to life may have changed, but not rugby.

"I go at it every session. You have to. I could blow out my hamstring in training tomorrow. It is what it is. You have to give it everything."

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