Thu 7 Feb 2019 | 02:11

Ian McKinley: Italy's Irish Super Hero

Ian McKinley: Italy's Irish Super Hero
Thu 7 Feb 2019 | 02:11
Ian McKinley: Italy's Irish Super Hero

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: For some rugby players being partially blind would be enough to hang up your boots, however not for Italian international Ian McKinley.

Roughly eight years since the unfortunate incident and spotting goggles, McKinley can be undoubtfully be compared to Marvel Super Hero Thor.

On the verge of breaking into the senior professional rugby area, with an Ireland Under-20 cap, six Leinster caps and settling into a role as deputy to Johnny Sexton, an unfortunate accident paused Ian McKinley’s career at 21-years-old.

The accident, which cost him sight in his left eye, occurred during a club match in 2010 for University College Dublin. McKinley caught the stud of a stray teammate’s boot and it perforated his left eye.

According to Rugbypass, the flyhalf retired briefly in 2011 after the realisation that his retina had detached, rendering him completely blind in his left eye.

Six months later, McKinley’s love for rugby instigated a remarkable comeback. Unfortunately, he developed a cataract in the eye and two further operations were required.

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Nonetheless, that did not deteriorate McKinley’s determinations.

Just like the Marvel Super Hero Thor, who lost his sight at the end of Thor: Ragnarok and emerged as a more all-powerful version of himself, McKinley resumed his rugby career.

And with the aid of protective goggles, McKinley returned with Rugby Viadana in Italy, a semi-professional side playing in the Italian Eccellenza.

In 2015, he would make his return to the Pro12, when Zebre needed cover at flyhalf during the World Cup.

McKinley would play a further two times for Zebre throughout the course of that season, one of those fixtures was against his previous team, Leinster.

The following season he earned a contract with Benetton Treviso, where some standout performances saw the Dubliner force his way into the international setup for the 2017 November Internationals.

McKinley would make his international bow against Fiji, coming off the bench to seal the game with a penalty for the Azzurri.

In an interview with Rugbypass in December 2018, McKinley revealed that he has embraced his role as an ambassador for the visually impaired but doesn’t want it to define him.

“I didn’t sign up to be a poster boy,” said McKinley.

“I want people to look beyond the goggles – that goes for coaches as well.”

“I think they do: if I make a mistake I get the same treatment as other players.”

“If I do something well, I get the same praise.”

Source: Rugbypass & @rugby365com

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