Leamy sees bright future for Munster
INTERVIEW:MUNSTER MAY have lost another cornerstone of the glory days but Denis Leamy believes there is enough talent coming through for them to become a major force again.
The 30-year old yesterday confirmed his retirement due to a persistent hip injury and is the latest in a long line of established players forced to call a halt to their Munster careers with the likes of Ian Dowling and Barry Murphy being followed this season by Jerry Flannery and David Wallace.
Leamy said that while the loss of such experience will undoubtedly take a toll, he is confident the raw material is there to return to the glory days.
“I have been lucky enough to see them up close and they are a very, very good group of young players.
“But there is still a group of the old heads like Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara, Donncha O’Callaghan and Marcus Horan, among others. They’ll point them in the right direction and give them a good grounding about what they’ll have to look forward to in the future.
“I think Munster is in a transition period and we are down at the moment but Munster rugby will be back and there will be great days again in the future,” said Leamy, who signed a new two-year contract in February and who has played 145 games for Munster and 57 for Ireland.
He urged Munster supporters to be patient while they go through a transition period.
“I think it is going to be difficult. There is a hard road ahead. I think patience is going to be a big thing from everyone, from the players, coaches and from outside the playing group, the fans as well. You can’t expect these young players to turn into seasoned veterans overnight.
“They have to learn as much as we did along the way and learn form their losses,” said the Tipperary native.
Leamy has worked since surgery in January to make a full recovery from a hip injury which flared up in the World Cup but in the past three or four weeks he began to realise it just was not going to work out. His worst fears were confirmed last week when he revisited orthopaedic surgeon Richard Villar in Cambridge.
“You always hold out five per cent of hope, but I knew myself that it would be difficult after speaking to the physios.
There is always the hope he had some different opinion on it, but just speaking to him and the advise he gave me about my life down the line it was really an easy decision in many ways.
“The injury really happened in the last week of the World Cup. I came back and I got treatment and injections and played a few games, but I struggled. I had to play off the bench and any game I started I struggled to finish.
“During the game against Scarlets just before Christmas I ended up taking myself off the pitch because I was just in so much pain and agony. I had painkillers taken but they didn’t seem to come near killing the pain. I knew at that stage that it was a very serious injury.
“There was a lot of damage within the joint in terms of labour and damage and obviously the cartilage had worn away a lot as well. There was the onset of arthritis as well. There was a lot of damage to the joint and it was never going to be easy,” he said.
He watched and saw how Flannery and Wallace dealt with similar news and chatted to them about how they came to terms with the devastation of it all.
But he is determined to take the positives out of a career which saw him debut for Munster at 19 and become a pillar of the success enjoyed by the province and Ireland.
“I have been blessed to work with so many great people and have enjoyed my time. I think we had a great thing in Munster as well because we were great friends off the pitch as well as comrades on the pitch. We had a great thing going. The two Heineken Cups were special, but the Grand Slam with Ireland topped it all. There are an awful lot of positives to look back on,” added Leamy.
He plans to take a break from rugby and will probably look to farming for a new way of life. He intends to stay involved in the game but not at professional level and Cashel RFC is likely to benefit from the latest bit of bad news to come out of Munster.
“The game has given me a lot and it would be wrong to walk away now. I’d like to stay in the game in some shape or form, I don’t know if that’s be club level or junior level but I’ll stay in the game in some shape or form.”