Protective rugby eye goggles
Sir, – Your rugby correspondents have recently highlighted the unresolved plight of Ian McKinley, who is my son.
Ian has shown extraordinary courage and resolve in re-building his professional rugby career in Italy, following losing his sight in one eye while a Leinster player, due to an injury accidentally sustained in a match five years ago.
To watch a son, not only now having partial vision, but also to have his dream so cruelly taken away from him is a mother’s worst nightmare. Ian’s lifeline back in to the game came because he is permitted to play in Italy with World Rugby’s trial goggles, which protect his remaining eye.
Twenty three other rugby unions worldwide have signed up to this trial, but the IRFU did not.
Ian has now successfully played nearly 40 professional matches over this and last season, including playing for the Barbarians last March in Scotland.
In October, he played for Zebre as a permit player in Italy against the Scarlets in the Guinness Pro 12. But a fortnight later, the IRFU refused him permission to play here against Connacht with Zebre, a rigid refusal that continues to this day.
In marked contrast, the Scottish RU makes the rugby goggles the centre-piece of their union’s inclusion policy.
How is it one Home union is able to celebrate the goggles, while another (the IRFU) outlaws them?
I consider the IRFU’s continuing treatment of Ian to be heartless and shocking, by persistently refusing him permission to play here professionally. Ian is an Irish citizen and a product of the academy system here.
The IRFU should be proudly affirming his heroic comeback achievements as a rugby good-news story, not blocking them, thereby impeding his professional rugby development.
Ian has done nothing wrong, yet it seems he is being penalised for his courage, as he battles the endless obstacles that are placed before him by rugby’s bureaucracy here.
As Ian’s mother, I now pose the following question to the IRFU: “If Ian was your own son, and had come through all he has, how would you feel if he was being treated in this way?”
– Yours, etc,