Dan Tuohy caused quite a stir back in February when he announced his enforced retirement with a brutally honest statement, which offered a withering assessment of what he believed to be the ugly side of professional rugby.
Tuohy shone a light on areas of the game, which most players choose to ignore. Four months on, he stands by his claim that rugby is “rotten from the core.”
The 11-times capped Ireland lock saw it all throughout his 13-year career, and is eager to ensure that people realise that the life of a professional rugby player is not always that glamorous.
Tuohy is walking proof of the sacrifices many make, as he is still hindered by the nerve-damage in his wrist, caused by a horrific injury late last year, which ended his career.
Tuohy hopes to recover in time, yet he has concerns given that he is about to start a new chapter of his life with his wife Keely, and the couple’s two kids, Jaxon and Isabelle. Since releasing the statement, the 34-year-old has received plenty of positive feedback from fellow professionals, many of whom admitted that they didn’t have it within them to speak out.
It all comes back to one of the most frustrating aspects of Tuohy’s time as a player – essentially being schooled by PR people for fear of actually being honest about a sensitive topic.
“You have done a million different interviews with a million different players,” Tuohy begins.
“They all say the same stuff, just regurgitated and spun around to sound a bit different.
“Having played with Ulster and in England, coming over to France, you can just say what you want to say. There is no sponsor, or person within the branch, or media person, who I have to keep happy.
“When I wrote the statement, I didn’t have to worry about a backlash or p***ing someone off. I felt like it was a weight off my shoulders.
“I think it is a problem. It’s such a competitive environment in Ireland. Contracts and playing squads are getting squeezed constantly.
“If there is a fifty-fifty call and you are the one who is outspoken, potentially things could go against you.
“It’s a fine tightrope. I remember doing interviews saying, ‘Yeah, we are looking forward to playing this week, they’re good away from home... blah blah blah.’ It’s just the same s**t.
“When really you should be saying, ‘Listen, the Dragons or Zebre are coming to Ravenhill, we should be smashing them by 40 points. We have got serious problems if we don’t.’
“You are quickly labelled as arrogant or dismissive. It’s easier to play that straight bat.”
Tuohy was plagued by injuries throughout the latter part of his career, so much so that he counts himself
lucky to have made it to 34 before the decision was taken out of his hands.
He recalls shattering his ankle during an Ulster game in 2015, which almost finished him, and although he worked tirelessly to recover, he never got the send-off he craved.
Instead, Tuohy’s final action of a seven-year stay in Belfast was playing football behind Ravenhill when one of their games was called off.
“There used to be bitterness towards Ulster, it took me years to get over that,” he admits. “I always felt like I was battling against something there – and that I didn’t get the recognition, or that I wasn’t spoken about or remembered.
“After a number of injuries, it broke me to the point where I didn’t feel that I resembled the player I once was.
“The day you retire, and a lot of people will reaffirm this, you become a nobody. People don’t realise what that’s like.”