Last week, Tyler Bleyendaal, Munster’s major signing from New Zealand, made his first appearance in the red jersey after dealing with 12 months of deep frustration because of a career-threatening injury. He came through in style.
At Thomond Park tonight, it will be the turn of hooker Mike Sherry and centre Cian Bohane to lay to rest the demons that inevitably challenge long-term injury victims, when they turn out against Connacht in a pre-season friendly. During the week, Bohane spoke about the fears and concerns that became part of his life for the best part of a year and how he never doubted that, sooner or later, he would come back fitter and better than ever.
“It’s tough to get around at the start,” he acknowledged. “They were saying that it is one of those things where you have to turn a negative into a positive and try focus on other things, so I tried to focus on myself and my studies and rehabing as best I could. I focused on the strength and conditioning stuff as best I could and the mental side of the game as well, so it was a tough year but a productive one as well.”
Bohane played his early rugby with PBC before moving on to Dolphin where he impressed sufficiently to earn an academy contract with Munster.
Everything was going to plan before disaster struck. “I tore my cruciate ligament, my posterior ligament, my lateral ligament came off the bone and part of my hamstring, the biceps, Femoris came off the bone but just a small one.
“It was a bit of a shock when we got the results. The match against Grenoble last weekend was 50 weeks to the day that it happened. I’m stronger and fitter than ever now thanks to the S&C staff. I’m coming into the season with no fear. I’ve realised now how easily this can all be taken away from you.
“When you are told how serious the injury is, it is tough but Ray Moran in the Sports Injury Clinic really filled me with a lot of confidence and and now I’m doing a S&C course at Setanta College through IRUPA — our players union.” And tonight looks forward avidly to partnering Francis Saili at some stage of the Connacht game with the exciting All Black centre included among the replacements.
“He’s a bubbly character to have around,” Bohane said. “He certainly brings a comical element to the squad but he’s a great player too.”
Mike Sherry was the worst hit of the long-term injury victims having missed out on 21 months because of shoulder and knee problems while Gerhard Van den Heever and Dave O’Callaghan of tonight’s squad are others hoping for a clear run having also been struck down for lengthy periods over the past season or so. CJ Stander captains Munster for the first time while Ian Keatley starts at out-half.
Connacht coach Pat Lam has already seen his squad in action against French sides Grenoble and Castres and reports himself satisfied with progress, pointing out “nearly everyone has had time to get rid of the pre-season rustiness”.
He said: “Competition is fierce which is what we want. We see the Munster game as the ideal opportunity to test ourselves against a strong side away from home.”
D Leader; T O’Halloran, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; JP Cooney, T McCarthy, R Ah You, U Dillane, A Browne, J Muldoon capt, N Fox-Matamua, E Masterson.
F Belham, D Heffernan, N White, Q Roux, B Marshall, E McKeon, G Naoupu, John Cooney, C Ronaldson, D Poolman, D McSharry.
D Johnston; S Monahan, C Bohane, M D’Arcy, G Van den Heever; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, S Archer, S McCarthy, D Foley, Dave O’Callaghan, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander capt.
K O’Byrne, J Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, S Bucklery, C Sheridan, B Johnston, F Saili, N Scannell, J Madigan, J Coghlan, S Fitzgerald.
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