Thu 29 Oct 2020 | 09:46

Ireland's 'freak' still adds cutting edge to pack

Ireland's 'freak' still adds cutting edge to pack
Thu 29 Oct 2020 | 09:46
Ireland's 'freak' still adds cutting edge to pack

SPOTLIGHT: Cian Healy has been a DJ, an artist and turned his hand to knife-making which makes his feat of reaching the 100-cap landmark for Ireland on Saturday against France even more praiseworthy.


The 33-year-old prop also battled a serious neck injury in 2015 – the “dark days” as he calls them – which nearly prompted him to retire.

That had come shortly after tearing his hamstring off the bone and a serious ankle injury to boot.

Little wonder Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said: “The keyword for Cian is resilience.”

Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton says of his close friend “he’s a bit of a freak of an athlete.”

Sexton recalls sitting on the bench in 2009 when Healy made his debut against Australia and wondering whether he realised he had been selected as a prop.

“The debut that he had was filled with line breaks,” Sexton said.


“It was almost like he was playing in the centre.”

Healy admits he was a bit cocky when he made his debut but adds being a ball carrier is what he prefers.

“I love when I get a chance to carry with the ball, not that I don’t love to defend, but I love getting the ball in my hands and running at people and running through holes,” he said.

“That’s the most enjoyable part of it for me.”

He is no softie though, hiding behind the bigger members of the scrum.

“He’s very abrasive, gets stuck in, all the things that you want from a prop, good set-piece,” said Sexton.

‘Dogs in the house’

Healy admits he had to set small goals to keep himself positive during the glum period with the neck injury in 2015.

“You’re battling demons like is this going to affect your career, and is it going to affect your life,” he said in 2017.

“Will you be able to turn the key in the door, because my arm had gone weak.

“So you just have to get on top of all of that stuff and keep as positive a mind frame as possible.”

One way he managed that was playing with his dogs – even if his favoured pet at the time was a turtle called Ralph.

“Dogs are very handy for injured lads to be honest, dogs in the house burn time pretty easy,” he said.

With his days as alter ego ‘DJ Church’ behind him, and having for the moment put the paint brushes aside, he is revelling in knife making.

“I was mad into food and barbeque and cooking, then my missus got me a hand-made knife and I thought, ‘I’ll give that a bash,'” Healy said in 2018.

“It’s the same as lads going playing golf; you find something to think about so you’re not worrying about rugby or anything else.”

A hundred caps is memorable enough – he will be the sixth Irishman to achieve that landmark – but could be topped by Ireland also securing the Six Nations title with a bonus-point win over the French at the Stade de France.

Healy says it is not the moment to rate how that would compare to his four victories with Leinster in the European Cup and the three Six Nations title-winning sides, including the 2018 Grand Slam.

“I don’t tend to do rankings and things like that of achievements,” he said.

“Slam was a big one, there’s European Cups, there’s lots of big ones.

“I have loads of number one achievements that were all huge amounts of success with different groups of players.

“Whenever the day comes to think back on them maybe I will but there’s no time to think back now.”

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Ireland's 'freak' still adds cutting edge to pack - france | Rugby365