Tributes were paid last night to Denis Leamy, who has been forced to retire from professional rugby due to a serious hip injury.
The Munster and Irish number eight, who played 144 games for Munster and 57 for Ireland over a decade, was hailed by iconic former Munster skipper Anthony Foley. The current Munster forwards coach and ex-Irish international described Leamy’s retirement as a huge blow to the province.
“It is obviously a huge disappointment for the player and a big loss to Munster and to Ireland too. I would have thought he had plenty more years ahead of him, he was a leader both on and off the pitch and his presence will be sorely missed within and around the squad; it’s a big void to fill and we’re all disappointed that his career has been cut short.”
Irish prop forward Cian Healy, immersed in preparations for Leinster’s assault on the RaboDirect Pro12 title against Ospreys at the RDS on Sunday, said he was shocked by the news. “Obviously my focus is on the match on Sunday, but I’ll be contacting Denis. It is a huge disappointment for him, especially because he clearly had a few years left.”
Munster Rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald also paid tribute to Leamy, describing him as an “outstanding back-row player throughout his career”. Fitzgerald added: “I believe his contribution to Munster and Irish rugby has been inestimable. His fierce determination on the field was mirrored by his work ethic off it and he leaves Munster rugby with our gratitude and best wishes for the future.”
Leamy said: “Three or four weeks ago I sat down and thought about things because I hadn’t been making the type of progress I had hoped to have made. I decided to push the appointment with the surgeon forward, I met him last Thursday and basically he told me what I had been thinking, that it wasn’t right to go on playing. There was a lot of damage to the joint and there’s a little bit of arthritis going on in there.
“It all started when I hurt it at the World Cup, I did a bit of damage to it at a ruck, from what I can remember. I came home, got a bit of treatment and a few injections but I wasn’t able to train properly or to play a full part in the games. I started the game against Scarlets in Llanelli in the Heineken Cup and I had to call the bench after 50 minutes. I had been in pain before but nothing like that and I knew then I was in serious trouble.”
“Obviously having to make a decision like this brings with it mixed emotions, it’s very sad to have to leave a game that I’ve been immersed in through the professional era but the upside is that I’ve got many happy memories, have played on some great teams and achieved a lot.
“But you’re always looking forward to the next challenge, to the next chapter, aren’t you? Reality will probably hit home over the next few weeks, I don’t know where that is going to lead me but it’s something I’m going to give a lot of thought to anyway”
Leamy though, isn’t ruling out a return to rugby in a coaching capacity.
He said: “I suppose things will work themselves out but yes, I suppose, it would be hard to turn away from the game that has dominated everything most of my adult life.”
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