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McNally thrilled to be back in heat of battle after surgery

 

By Robert Jones

Josh McNally says it is "an absolute breath of fresh air" to be playing professional rugby again after recovering from a minor stroke and corrective heart surgery.

The 27-year-old London Irish lock made a try-scoring return to action in their 33-29 Aviva Premiership defeat against former Ulster star David Humphreys' Gloucester.

And it represented a remarkable achievement for the senior RAF aircraftsman, given what he has been through.

"The whole story of having the stroke and then struggling to find a cause of why I had a stroke was the biggest thing," he said.

"If you couldn't find a cause, then you struggle to find anyone to say you are fit to play because it could happen again.

"Thankfully, I had some of the best medical advice, and it was found I had a hole in the heart, which was the reason a clot got through.

"Thankfully, I got that closed, had a three-month recovery period and got back on the park.

"It was a long process, but it feels a bit like a distant memory now. I have been training for a month and a half, and it is good to be back."

McNally felt unwell after playing for Irish in a Premiership game against Saracens at Allianz Park last October.

"The hole in the heart is very common," he added. "If you are born with it, most people take their first breath and it shuts, but for some people it doesn't.

"Not many people push themselves to elite athlete levels of maximum heart-rate, so not many people find it.

"That's why after playing 80 minutes against Saracens, I was driving home and it was where my heart had expanded, all the stress of the game, that's when the clot managed to get through.

"I could have easily gone through my whole life with loads of near-misses, but nothing ever happening. Thankfully, it was sort of a bullet dodged, and I can crack on.

"It 100 per cent puts everything into perspective."

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