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“The first stage was being a functional human again” – Cian Healy on coming back from the brink

Cian Healy

Saturday will be a special day.

Cian Healy says he is trying his best not to think too much about the significant milestone he is about to reach in his career on Saturday – earning 100 caps for Ireland.

Cian Healy

If selected to play against France in the Six Nations this weekend, Healy will become just the sixth player in Irish rugby history to reach 100 caps for Ireland.

Healy will join an illustrious group of players which includes legends of the sport in this country; Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell and John Hayes.

Healy is one of the last remaining players from Ireland’s previous golden generation during the noughties. The Clontarf man made his debut for Ireland in November 2009 at Croke Park in a test against the Wallabies. He remembers that day vividly.

“The whole occasion, it was class to play in Croker,” Healy said on Tuesday.

“There were so many big names in that team, that kind of shocked me a bit. I was young and cocky and confident in myself and I got a bit of slagging for it, but a bit of that confidence goes a long way.

“I remember Paulie [O’Connell] tapped me down a ball from a kick-off and that was my one outstanding memory of that game, I got a bit of a run off it.”

Healy never looked back from that debut as he was a mainstay in Irish squads for the next couple of years but at one stage in 2015, it looked like he wouldn’t win another cap for Ireland, never mind reaching the exclusive ‘100 club’.

Surgery on a disc in his neck caused some nerve damage which saw him without the use of his right hand. He came incredibly close to signing off on the documentation which would have confirmed his retirement but thankfully, for the player and Irish rugby, he experienced some feeling in his hand while on holiday and he never looked back.

“It was broken down into so many stages,” Healy said of his recovery that year. “The first stage of that was being a functional human again and opening the door with keys and simple stuff like that.

“Each time I became capable of something, I’d work on another new standard, something else more achievable. I’d build through them and keep progressing through those goals to get back into the international team again.

“And then get to the standard of the international team, it was a constant drive for fitness and getting my standards up because rugby keeps moving on.”

Naturally, it took a bit of time for Healy to rediscover his form but his perseverance in the face of extreme adversity saw the 33-year-old reestablish himself as a top international prop.

Cian Healy will reach 100 caps for Ireland on Saturday and no one deserves it more.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email seanmc@punditarena.com or on Twitter