The 21-year-old future star finally gave up on his dream of furthering his professional career when he announced his retirement from the game yesterday after a succession of failed operations.
The highly talented fly-half/centre was injured playing for his then club UCD against Lansdowne almost two years ago.
He takes up the story: “After the accident happened I was advised that a cataract would develop, but the surgeon was surprised that it did not happen until 18 months after the initial incident.
“I was determined to overcome the temporary loss of sight and get back playing rugby so I was thrilled to return to training in July 2010, six months after the accident. It was such a great source of relief to get the chance to pull on the Leinster jersey again.
“In May, though, I played a game for the Leinster Development side and I had to stop after 15 minutes because of blurred vision. I then sustained a detached retina a week before pre-season and three operations over this summer couldn’t save my sight in that eye.
“I officially advised Joe [Schmidt], the Leinster coach, about my decision [to retire] last week.”
McKinley played six times for Leinster after making his debut away to the Dragons in May 2009. Following the severe eye injury in January 2010, he played four times last season scoring a try in his man-of-the-match display for the province in the league victory over Benetton Treviso last February.
The former St Columba’s playmaker graduated from the Leinster Academy in May with a HETAC diploma and was then rewarded with his first professional contract. This was achieved after an incredible recovery from the eye injury, which he sustained during an All-Ireland League game.
Yesterday he paid tribute to his family and coaches as well as the medical team who worked to save his sight. Schmidt, meanwhile, described it as a terribly sad time.
“It is always a sad time whenever a player has to call time on his career, but it is especially difficult when a player with as bright a future in the game as Ian has to make the decision so prematurely.
“The courage and determination that Ian displayed in firstly coming back from the loss of sight and then to force his way back into the team is indicative of both his strength of character and his playing ability.”