herald

Monday 24 April 2017

Redemption for battling Byrne

Sexton finds perspective from injury plight of his team-mate

Leinster's Ed Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Ed Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

"There's guys around me in Leinster who are injured and haven't played for two years. It's been one injury after another and that puts me in perspective." - Jonathan Sexton

"For close to the last two and a half years, 27 months in fact, anyone and everyone who has been injured has known one constant in the Leinster rehabilitation room." - Ed Byrne

Carlow man Ed Byrne, now 23, came out of Clongowes Wood College as one of the two most touted Leinster players from that school year. The other was Dan Leavy.

While Leavy has had to deal with his own hamstring and lower back issues, the flanker is beginning to reap the dividends.

He was the 24th man for Ireland against France, one-man-down away from his second cap.

Byrne was on the same trajectory in that he made his debut as a 20-year-old in February 2014.

It was four caps and eight months later when the Ballickmoyler man ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament 29 minutes into Leinster's PRO12 League match against Edinburgh in October 2014.

Imagine, it happened just 20 days after Josh van der Flier made his debut, 11 months before Garry Ringrose first played for Leinster.

The extended period out of the game ended at the start of a pre-season match against Ulster in August 2015 and, sadly, began again seven minutes later with an even more traumatic injury to the same knee.

Quality

"We had already seen the quality that he had and what he was capable of," said Ireland flanker Rhys Ruddock.

"There was also the way he carried himself. He was in the gym for hours-upon-hours every day, probably doing the same thing over and over.

"That is what rehab is like. It is monotonous and boring. He never wavered and stayed as positive as he could."

In the meantime, Leinster have let a cluster of players, like Connacht centre Tom Farrell and Scarlets lock Tadhg Beirne, go as Byrne worked away in not-so-splendid isolation.

"Any player, no matter the talent, if they've got that determination and drive, they are going to be an asset worth holding onto," says Ruddock.

"He has the talent. But I would say it was more his attitude and focus."

The nightmare ended in a hit-out for UCD in Seapoint last month.

Loose-head Byrne returned to his life in Blue last Friday night as a 57th minute replacement for Peter Dooley.

Ruddock is a man with a fine sense of timing and finally felt free to introduce an element of comedy to what currently stands as a fine feel-good story.

"I know that day for him was very special. I know the whole team was delighted to see him go so well.

"There was only thing: he didn't pass me the ball when we got to the edges.

"I don't really blame him. I think it was his first carry in over two years."

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