If Adam Byrne didn’t have bad luck, he would have no luck at all.
In November 2017, the 25-year-old Kildare native made his international debut when he started against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.
“I’ll never forget my Test debut,” Byrne told Pundit Arena. “It’s something very special to me. The whole week, the whole series was an incredible learning experience and overall just something I’ll never forget.”
That Test debut was well deserved.
In the 2016/17 season, Byrne made 20 appearances for Leinster scoring 10 tries which included five appearances in the Champions Cup.
Preceding that breakthrough season, Byrne was more or less out of action for three years with various serious injuries; fractured ankle, torn bicep, broken fibula. It’s easy to forget that Byrne made his Leinster debut as an 18-year-old against Connacht in December 2012 under then head coach Joe Schmidt. He’s been on the scene for quite some time but some wretched luck has hampered his progress.
It’s a testament to his character that he continuously bounces back from such disappointment.
Back to that cold November night at the Aviva Stadium and a niggling problem which Byrne felt throughout that Autumn campaign had to be dealt with. He soon went under the knife for keyhole surgery on his knee despite valiant efforts to rehab the injury by other means.
Unfortunately, that put him out of contention for the 2018 Six Nations where Ireland secured a historic Grand Slam.
Another opportunity missed.
He did make his way back to fitness to help Leinster secure top spot in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14. His form at the end of that season and in the first half of 2018/19 season saw him claw his way back into the Ireland picture.
Although he didn’t win another cap in the 2018 November internationals or the 2019 Six Nations, Byrne was in camp on both occasions. The picture was looking more positive.
Byrne started Leinster’s dramatic Champions Cup quarter-final win over Ulster at the end of March and he touched down brilliantly in the 53rd minute to open up a five-point cushion against their northern rivals in a game they came very close to losing.
Performing well in the biggest games is high on the list of requirements when it comes to being selected for Ireland duty and Byrne couldn’t have asked for a better platform or environment to strut his stuff.
Things were on the up but cruel injury struck again when Byrne damaged his quad two weeks later in a clash with the Glasgow Warriors.
16 weeks recovery, season over and dreams of representing Ireland at the World Cup dashed in an instant.
“It was a tough one to take at the time because you work so hard as a squad and individually to get yourself in that position to play in the big games or be even up for selection for them. Initially, it was a very tough one to take. Once it happened I just had to get on with it as quickly as possible and look to the recovery and see what I could do to speed it along or get myself back into the best shape as possible.”
Of course, Byrne isn’t the only player who suffers injuries at the worst times. His housemate and teammate Josh van der Flier picked up a knee injury against France in the 2018 Six Nations which ruled him out of the rest of the season and the eastern province’s subsequent double-triumph in the PRO14 and Champions Cup.
Injury struck Van der Flier against the same opposition in the 2019 Six Nations but the flanker made a remarkable recovery to be involved in his side’s run-in to their PRO14 title, picking up the man-of-the-match award against Munster in the semi-final in the process.
It’s this mindset and determination to recover as quickly as possible that Byrne takes inspiration from.
“It was tough. I’m living with Josh van der Flier. He missed last year with an injury and he said it was very tough watching the lads play in the finals. I was trying to take a few pages from his book where he had an injury as well that had a longer diagnosis and he did everything possible, worked extremely hard and he got himself back to play in that final against Glasgow.
“He’s one of the best pros I’ve played with and lived with! I’m just trying to do as much at what he does.”
At 25, Byrne has suffered more than most when it comes to injuries but the experience has helped him see the bigger picture.
Rugby isn’t everything.
“Everyone has had their own injuries throughout their career. I’d feel sorry for myself at one time but then you just have to look around. Even outside of rugby, there’s a lot of other things that put things into perspective.”
Leinster have now returned to pre-season training and Byrne is once again immersing himself into life at UCD. He’s taking a major step on the road to recovery this week as he begins running for the first time since his latest injury setback.
That’s his focus now but there’s no doubt that there will be a lingering feeling of ‘what could have been’ when you have the notable absence of Leinster’s top players due to their World Cup preparations out in Carton House.
Byrne admits he would “give anything to be there” but ultimately, he is content to support his friends as they hope to finally break that quarter-final hoodoo in Japan.
“Once I got the diagnosis of the injury, I knew I wouldn’t be available anyway for selection but yeah, it’s a funny one. A lot of the lads in there (Ireland camp) are some of your best mates. All I’m wishing is for them to do well and for Ireland to do well but personally, it’s obviously the dream to play for your country.
“I’d give anything to be in there, fit and healthy and training away. You never know how things are going to go, so, I guess I haven’t really let myself think about it too much. I’m just trying to focus on what I can control and what I can improve and stuff like that. I’ll look forward to watching the games and I’ll be rooting for the lads and I believe we can win it. I hope we do it and I’d be delighted for everyone in there.”
Bryne’s 16-week recovery diagnosis from the date of his injury puts him into contention for a return to full fitness at the beginning of August – around the same time that Ireland play the first of their four World Cup warm-up games.
History tells us that players drop out through injury during World Cup preparations. It’s not outside the realms of possibility that Byrne could still have a role to play at some point.
However, Byrne has been around long enough and has too much experience to entertain such thoughts. The focus for him is to return to full fitness and to control what he can control.
“That’s the only thing I’m trying to keep my mind on at the moment (returning to fitness). I’ve realised there’s no point worrying about things that I can’t really control or influence. The only thing I’m worried about is getting back and trying to get back in even better shape than when I left.”
“Just pick up from where I left off.”
If Byrne can do that, it won’t be long until we see him in green again.
Adam Byrne pictured at the official launch of the newly refurbished Chadwicks branch in Naas, Co. Kildare. The revamp of the Naas Chadwicks branch is part of an ongoing nationwide brand refresh by Grafton Merchanting ROI which started last summer. The fully upgraded Chadwicks Naas branch promises an even better in-store experience for customers. A new layout, shelving, flooring, signage and counters have all been installed to transform the branch into a brand-new modern showroom, fit to showcase the latest trends on bathrooms floors and doors.