McKinley pays tribute to reception received on his return to the RDS
TREVISO’S IAN MCKINLEY has paid tribute to the wonderful reception which he received from Leinster supporters when he made his return to action at the RDS on Friday night, five years after retiring from the game after losing the sight in his left eye.
His professional rugby career with Leinster came to a halt as a 21-year old when he suffered the eye injury in a club game for UCD against Lansdowne.
But the Dubliner never gave up, moving to Italy initially to get into coaching to stay involved in rugby.
And then, thanks to the Raleri protective goggles, a journey back to playing rugby began. He moved up through the ranks in Italy, making it into the Zebre side last year while simultaneously battling World Rugby to get other rugby unions, including the IRFU, to lift restrictions on the goggles and allow players use them.
The success of that battle off the field, coupled with his unflinching spirit, reached fruition just after the hour mark in the opening Pro12 game of the season at the RDS on Saturday night when McKinley, now in the Treviso colours, made his entrance.
The home support rose to their feet to give a tremendous reception to the former St Columba’s College student when he was introduced.
“A big shout out and a thank you to the Leinster fans who gave me a nice cheer. It was hard to concentrate for those first few seconds. But I am thrilled to be able to grace the turf of rugby field,” he said.
“Everything came together tonight, all of the work from my family and it’s fitting that it starts off here,” said McKinley, now 26.
He was unable to prevent an opening night defeat for Treviso with Leinster out-half Joey Carbery crowning his first start with two tries in a 20-8 win.
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But this was a game where something else trumped the result and McKinley admitted he could never envisage a day when he would return to play professional rugby in the RDS.
“No, I don’t think you can predict. But with a lot of hard work from a lot of people a bit of luck along the way you can make things happen.
“On a personal level I am thrilled but obviously the team is much bigger than an individual. We are bitterly disappointed after all of the effort we put into tonight.
“A bounce of the ball here and there and the result could have gone the other way. But we will keep going at it. We will go back to the drawing board again now on Monday. A big game against Ulster at home, and we will keep going and improving,” added McKinley.
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