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Luckless Carbery

Joey pays heavy price for World Cup gamble

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joey carbery

joey carbery

SPORTSFILE

Joey Carbery (third from right) faces the New Zealand haka prior to the start of last October’s World Cup quarter-final at the Tokyo Stadium, Chofu. Photo: Sportsfile

Joey Carbery (third from right) faces the New Zealand haka prior to the start of last October’s World Cup quarter-final at the Tokyo Stadium, Chofu. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

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joey carbery

For all that we are often quick to praise a player for playing through the pain barrier, sometimes the decision should be taken out of his or her hands for their own good.

In Joey Carbery's case, the prospect of playing at a World Cup meant everything to him last year, especially after uprooting his life and moving to Limerick in his quest to ensure that he made the plane to Japan.

You can understand then why he pushed himself to the limit after he suffered, what at the time, looked like a serious ankle injury last August, just weeks before the tournament.

Carbery's reaction at the time of the incident told its own story and even now with the benefit of hindsight, it's difficult not to have a fair idea of what was going through his head.

Dream

The out-half was close to tears as he looked like he was coming to terms with the reality that his World Cup dream had just been ended.

A few eyebrows were raised when he made the final squad as Ireland decided to roll the dice with his fitness, knowing that he would not be fit for at least the opening game against Scotland.

It was a risky move and one which Joe Schmidt and his coaching staff clearly felt was worth it, such was the importance of Carbery to their plans.

We can now safely say that the gamble backfired spectacularly because not only did Carbery not look fit in Japan, the issue has carried on into this season.

A minor procedure helped briefly solve the problem, but by the time he returned to Munster, it was soon revealed that he had in fact suffered "a fair bit of damage" to his ankle.

Johann van Graan has kept his composure throughout what has been a deeply frustrating period for the Munster head coach, who brought Carbery to the province with the intention of basing his game-plan around him.

Perhaps Van Graan knew something we didn't because reading between the lines, he is not happy with how this scenario has unfolded.

Carbery had only just returned against Leinster on December 28 before he damaged ligaments in his wrist against Ulster the following week, which required surgery and again raised questions about his durability in what is an increasingly combative sport.

If his ankle had not healed sufficiently, which it evidently hadn't, then it makes sense to have undergone the knife again on Monday in a bid to finally get it right.

The 24-year old was always up against it to make it back this season anyway with the wrist injury, and now that he has had a second operation on his ankle, the idea of playing again in this campaign should not even be entertained.

Fresh

Carbery needs time to get his body right in order to come back into pre-season ready to start fresh. He may not agree, but again, perhaps this is a decision that should be taken out of his hands with the long game in sight.

Carbery's best days are still ahead of him, which will not come as much of a consolation now as he sits at home watching Ireland in the Six Nations.

With Johnny Sexton having had his own injury problems and after struggling against England, Carbery will have firmly believed that this was his time to shine.

On Monday, we discussed how important it is for Ireland to use two play-makers.

Carbery is the ideal man for that kind of role, yet Andy Farrell can't exactly wait around for someone who is increasingly injury prone.

Ireland will tour Australia this summer and although the Athy native will be desperate to be part of it, one would have to question the logic of travelling down under with only two games under his belt this season.

It was a massive decision to join Munster in the first place, and although there is plenty of time to turn it around, the move has been a disaster thus far.

That will surely be taking its toll on Carbery mentally, who lest we forget, is still a very young man.

His teammates will have rallied around him over the last few months, but the rehab room is a lonely place, ask any player who has had the misfortune of spending more than his or her fair share of time in there. Ireland and Munster have both lost out on having one of the most exciting players in the country available to them, but Carbery has paid the heaviest price for what was a failed World Cup gamble.