It's now 40 years since so much changed for Colin Patterson during an afternoon on South Africa's Highveld. Four decades on July 8, to be exact, since his right knee was torn asunder by a freak injury playing for the British and Irish Lions at the De Beers Stadium in Kimberley against Griqualand West.
Just six minutes into an otherwise forgettable end-of-tour game was when the scrum-half's time in top-flight rugby came to a juddering halt. He was 25 and would never feature for Ireland or Ulster again, and all this less than two years after making his international debut.
His loss to the game was much more than just another playing career taking its final bow due to a premature and unexpected injury as Patterson was a special talent.
Though his time in Test rugby was short, it nevertheless saw him illuminate the stage with a skill-set which still earns the Ulsterman mentions in despatches as one of the finest to have ever worn the green No.9 shirt.
He won just 11 Ireland caps but there were already five tries to the diminutive player's name. And it ended playing in a midweek game for the already injury-ravaged Lions squad when his knee was so ruined, on what was the penultimate game of the tour, that he required immediate surgery.
Mind you, for all that, it took a while longer before he finally conceded that rugby at a reasonable level really was forever out of reach. That moment came back at home thanks to a local surgeon's silence.
"The guy who operated on me in South Africa had said I'd play again," recalls Patterson, who has been in Marbella with wife Trisha, and unable to return due to the pandemic, since going there for the start of March for his 65th birthday. He hopes to fly home next month.
"I actually initially thought I'd get back, and I did try playing with a special knee support, but I knew it wasn't working out.
"It actually took about two years before I could bend my knee properly."
Anyway, a year or so after the op, an invitation was on the table to turn out at Queensland Rugby Union's centenary. He fancied the trip but was concerned enough that he went to see a surgeon who lived nearby.
"I asked him if I should go and he just looked at me," says Patterson.
"Then I asked him if I'd ever play at a high level again and he just kept looking at me but just shook his head.
"I had reckoned right away that my playing career was probably over but it still took that moment for me to actually admit it to myself," recalls Patterson, whose half-back partners for Ireland were none other than Tony Ward and then Ollie Campbell.
Patterson learned the game at RBAI and then further developed his notable skills as a law student at Bristol University before representing Instonians and Ulster.
His lack of height - he was officially listed as 5ft 5in - worked in his favour with his sniping speed terrifying defences. But there was so much more, with his passing off both hands, kicking and defensive covering making him pretty much the complete scrum-half, a rare thing in Irish rugby.
He also came with an attitude that took no nonsense from opponents and even from his own team-mates, with Patterson standing his ground to win respect from a gnarled Ireland pack containing Moss Keane and Willie Duggan as well as no-nonsense skipper Fergus Slattery.
Four decades on and he can still vividly recall the agony of the injury and pain from his operation in Johannesburg, the horrible journey home and, of course, the fact that his plans to live, work and play the game in Australia for six months were all as shredded as his knee.
"I was meant to come back to Belfast (after the Lions tour) and go a week later to Queensland in Australia," he recalls.
"Instead, I arrived home in a wheelchair with my hip to toes in plaster.
"And I'd sold my house, I'd sold my car and I'd left my job.
"You just had to press the reset button and go again," is how he explains starting from scratch back in Northern Ireland, where he went on to forge a successful career as a solicitor and is father to sons Graeme and Jonny as well as having a step-son, Stephen.
What isn't so well known is that Patterson was also experiencing the initial turbulence of his time as a top player just at the precise moment that it was to suddenly end.
After playing 14 straight Tests - 11 for Ireland and three for the Lions - he was there on that midweek day in Kimberley because he had been dropped for what was the final Test a few days later in a series which had already been lost.
The decision was a strange one and still rankles a bit - "the coach Noel Murphy (who had just stepped down from Ireland) made it very clear that I was out," he recalls - though all that got somewhat lost in what followed against Griqualand West.
Time has not dulled the memory of what happened as Patterson explains: "This guy came off the side of a ruck, but as he fell (in a tackle) his shoulder hit me on the worst part possible on my knee.
"There's a little, precise point on the inside of your knee and if you take a direct hit on it, it just blows your knee completely.
"I just happened to have my leg in the wrong place and that was it. The knee was blown and, I can tell you, I didn't try to hide the pain."
He was immediately shipped off to Johannesburg where it was established that he had suffered more extensive damage than was the norm from rugby and needed to go under the knife.
"I think the surgeon was one of the first guys to do carbon fibre replacements but I think his previous operations had been on a horse and dog," he laughs, though he has had a couple of follow-up procedures over the years.
"I remember I was taken to the orthopaedic ward before I went in (for the operation) and people in there were screaming.
"The guy next door to me said, 'Trust me, when you come back after surgery you'll be doing the same'.
"I thought I'd be fine as I reckoned I was a hard lad rugby player.
"I was wrong," he adds of what happened when he woke up.
"They would put you on morphine and then after about three hours it would wear off but you couldn't get any more until another hour was up.
"So for one hour you are screaming and doing anything you can to try and get a shot to stop the pain."
Things calmed down after a couple of days but, by then, the tour was ending and he was considered able to return home.
But there were more problems. On the long-haul flight, Patterson required an upgrade from economy, where all players flew in those amateur days, to allow him space for his heavily bandaged and unbendable leg.
There were no takers from the Lions blazers, who didn't slum it in economy, but he luckily managed to bag a seat in business class and his team-mates made a makeshift table to allow him to keep his leg up for the lengthy journey.
Patterson finally stopped trying to play in the mid-80s after a spell at junior club Donaghadee and tried a bit of coaching there and at Instonians, though it wasn't for him.
And regrets? Not being around for the Triple Crowns of 1982 and even 1985 is in there, but he has long since contented himself with his short shot at Test rugby.
"At least I can say I got to do everything I needed to do as a player and, let's face it, how many people get to do what I did?" he says.