Leo Cullen explained just how much playing for Leinster again meant to Adam Byrne after the winger’s 21-month spell on the sidelines.
Before Saturday’s 43-7 win against Zebre, Byrne last played professional rugby in December 2019, having struggled with hamstring and quad injuries for the last two years.
Byrne didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things as he scored a try late on in the first half, before adding a second to help Leinster to a comfortable bonus-point win.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen was speaking to RTE after the game and praised the Kildare man for his patience after a tough injury-strewn period.
Leo Cullen hails Adam Byrne on his return.
“He’s delighted now, it means so much to him. It was really challenging for him the last period because he didn’t play rugby at all during the lockdown basically,” Cullen said.
“He got very, very close and picked up another injury and was out for another chunk of time, but he’s shown great resilience and dedication throughout the process and the backroom team look after the player so well.
“It’s been a frustrating one for him, but that’s part and parcel of the game, so he’s trying to stay the course and it’s great to see Adam because he’s had to be so patient over a long period of time.”
Nice moment for Adam Byrne and his family. Pure emotion.
Been a tough couple of years. Good to see him back. pic.twitter.com/mlxakTmowA
— Cian Tracey (@CianTracey1) October 9, 2021
The Leinster winger still has plenty of time to get back to his best.
A 21-month injury break is far from ideal for any player, but at the age of 27, Byrne still has plenty of time left to build on his career with Leinster and maybe even win more caps for Ireland.
Byrne won his first cap for Ireland in November 2017 against Argentina off the back of a run of impressive form for Leinster, but the athletic winger has yet to play for his country again.
If he wishes to work his way back into Ireland’s squad he will need consistent game time for Leinster, which won’t be easy to come by with the likes of Jordan Larmour, James Lowe and Dave Kearney currently ahead of him in the pecking order.
Still, he got off to a flying start against Zebre and has shown how devastating he can be for Leinster in the past, and could soon be contributing to a significant selection headache for Cullen on the wing.