Ian Keatley was grateful to have escaped the cruel grip that Covid-19 has placed on his adopted hometown in northern Italy but the former Munster fly-half will not hesitate to return to Treviso and help rebuild the local economy when it is safe to do so.
Keatley, who turned 33 on Wednesday, is still in his first season with Benetton having joined from Munster via a loan spell at London Irish last summer after 180 appearances and 1,247 points for the province. He joined an Italian team with fellow Dubliner Ian McKinley already on the books and a competitor for the number-10 jersey but that rivalry is on hold for now as the two men adjust to life in contrasting forms of lockdown. While McKinley remains in Treviso, holed up with wife Cordelia and their dog Mela in a fourth-floor apartment, Keatley was lucky enough to have flown back to Ireland when Benetton played their last game before the suspension of the Guinness PRO14 season at Rodney Parade in south Wales on March 6.
“We played Dragons, and then we just found out that our next two matches against Ulster and Munster were going to be called off, so when we were over in Dragons I just asked if I could fly straight home,” Keatley said during a video call organised by Guinness PRO14.
“So I flew home and then the next day Italy went into lockdown, so I was kinda lucky that way, that I got home, and that I actually sent my wife and child home the week previously, just for safety reasons.
“That’s what, about three weeks ago now, nearly. I’m staying in my parents’ house in Dublin, so they’ve been getting me to do a lot of jobs around the house, cleaning up the garage, cleaning up everyone’s room that they have, which is a mess, so I’ve been forced to do that.
“Also I’ve got a watt bike and a barbell and a few weights, just to keep active.”
Keatley said he and wife Lisa, whom he married in Adare, Co Limerick on New Year’s Eve, and their two-year-old daughter Beth have “made Italy our home now, and we’re loving it over there” and there was no hesitation about his desire to return once the Italian government lifts its current restrictions, with residents unable to venture more than 200 metres from their homes. The country is currently at the centre of the pandemic with more than 13,000 deaths recorded but Keatley senses a turn for the better.
“I’ll be happy enough to go back to Italy. I don’t think I’ll be going back until a lot of things have changed. It seems to look like, just reading the media, that they are seeming to be controlling the issue and new cases in Italy seem to be coming down.
“I know the death rate is still high but it looks like new cases are coming down, which means they are on a downward curve.
“I think it would be right for me to go back to Italy. It’s my adopted home now, and I think I should go back and support the local economy.
“I know my brother and sister have holidays booked in Italy and they’re talking about cancelling their holidays there at the end of June and I’m just telling them, ‘just wait and see’.
“Tourism in Italy, it’s probably the biggest factor in their economy so I want to support that, I want to make sure that my brother and sister do come over. I hope that tourism and the tourists still go to Italy now, even in the summer.
“I know they will be worried about it but I think we have to show support and do our normal holidays that we were going to do in Italy.
“I don’t think the Italian government is going to open again if there is a threat this will break out again. I’m going to go back to Italy and support the Italian people.
“A lot of my friends live there and I know their families have businesses there so I want to go back and support them.”
McKinley yesterday described what life is like in northern Italy currently and his own situation in Treviso.
“We live on the fourth floor of an apartment block but we’re fortunate enough to have a little area where we can park our car. So it probably takes about 20 seconds to run around my apartment block so if you do about 50 laps of that, that’s usually your fitness done. Which is not the most exciting fitness but I suppose it’s more just for your mind.
“I think it’s about setting out little objectives that you have at this time, whether it is physical or mental, just to keep going.
“It’s very easy to get into a routine of just letting the days bog you down. You can just drift through the day and it’s easy just to look at the television or to play your computer all day but it’s good to have little different things to try and stimulate yourself.
“Easier said than done but it’s easier when you’ve got someone living with you. There’s probably some guys here who are living on their own and that would be particularly difficult but they are some of the things that try and keep you going during the day.”
“I’ve been trying to improve my baking and pasta-making skills, eight years living in Italy and I never learned how to make pasta which is absolutely ridiculous, so they’re the small things I’ve been trying.”
With a toddler to keep amused, Keatley has no such time on his hands.
“I have a daughter who is two-and-a-half who has been taking up most of my time. She goes for a two-hour nap during the day but then she goes to bed with us at night so I literally don’t have any minutes to spare.
“My dad has me cleaning up the house, cleaning up the garden so I don’t really have any time to be picking up anything new at the moment,” he adeded.