Benetton Treviso rugby player Ian McKinley praised his family for their support during a time he felt his “world was over”, as part of a speech given to DCU staff and students last Thursday.
The speech was organised by Senior Sports and Skills Development Officer, Ross Munnelly and was based on the subject of resilience. McKinley spoke of how he coped in the aftermath of a life-changing injury.
“At the age of 18, I was training with the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy and Johnny Sexton. I was on a path towards – I won’t say stardom – but doing pretty well.”
Shortly after his success began, McKinley detailed how he was injured while training with his club.
“In 2010, my world sort of turned upside down,” he said.
“I was at the bottom of a ruck and for some reason I found myself on my back for a split second, and within that split second one of my teammates, unfortunately, stood on my eyeball.”
McKinley spoke of his sight deterioration, even after surgery, and his quick reaction to it.
“We were stopped at traffic lights and I was sitting in the backseat and I looked up at the lights and I said ‘I actually cannot make out any of those colours’”
At the talk, he lauded his mother for attending to him and ensuring that he received medical attention immediately.
McKinley explained he couldn’t play contact sport for fear that his ‘good eye’ would be damaged.
He mentioned that while coaching out in Italy, he thought about getting protective gear for his eyes.
McKinley explained that he proposed the idea to NCAD and a student, John Merrigan, designed poly-carbon plastic goggles to protect the eyes during sport.
The goggles “became available in January 2014 and by March 2014, I was back playing my first game”.
McKinley said that even with the goggles, he wasn’t allowed to play rugby in Ireland, England or France due to insurance and safety issues.
He explained his frustration when Benetton Treviso met Connacht in a match in Galway.
“We thought, as a family, that this is absolutely ridiculous. How can you deprive someone of playing sport on their own home turf?”
McKinley thanked the DCU students for signing a petition which helped over-rule the restriction, and allowed him to continue to play rugby in Ireland making him the first Irishman to play professional rugby wearing the goggles.
“I just want to show that with a lot of work around, you can achieve unbelievable things,” he said.
Image Credit: dcu.ie