O'Leary faces long time on the sidelines


RUGBY: MUNSTER SCRUMHALF Tomás O’Leary went under the knife on Saturday as he sets out on the long road to recovery from the broken ankle that brought his season to a shuddering halt last Friday.

In the cruellest of blows, O’Leary has already been invalided out of the Lions tour to South Africa and will miss the remainder of Munster’s European and Magners League campaigns, starting with next Saturday’s pivotal Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster.

Leinster are not without injury concerns of their own for that showdown, with Rob Kearney considered a doubt after coming down with the mumps. The Ireland fullback, also selected for the Lions, missed the win over Glasgow at the RDS on Saturday night.

“We’ll have a look at our opposition this week and we also have to see how Rob is, how he can come back from his illness,” Leinster coach Michael Cheika admitted after the 36-13 win. “Mumps, yeah. He’s been out for a while now. Hopefully, all going well he’ll be back. He has been out of action for a week or so, so we just have to see how he presents.”

There were more positive noises emanating from the Leinster camp regarding CJ van der Linde’s availability, with a spokesman expressing confidence the prop could play some part at Croke Park. The South African has been plagued with foot injuries, but is expected to be named in an extended squad this evening.

Gordon D’Arcy was taken off against Glasgow in the second half because of a foot injury. It is believed that was a precautionary measure.

O’Leary, meanwhile, was taken to Cork University Hospital on Friday night where X-rays confirmed his worst fears. He then travelled to see a specialist in Dublin, where he had an operation on Saturday.

The complicated nature of the injury – his ankle was both fractured and dislocated – would suggest the 25-year-old faces at least four months out of the game and will struggle to be fit for the start of next season. Indeed, the worst-case scenario could see him missing until 2010.

“It goes without saying that we are very disappointed to lose a player of Tomás’s stature at this crucial stage of the season,” Munster coach Tony McGahan said, “even more particularly so, from his own personal point of view, given that he had just been selected to tour with the Lions, and our thoughts are with him in that regard.”

Cheika also expressed sympathy for O’Leary’s costly injury.

“It’s absolutely terrible for the player, not just for the game (on Saturday) but because of the opportunity on the Lions tour,” said Cheika.

O’Leary’s injury is also a setback for Lions coach Ian McGeechan who, mindful of the gruelling run-in to the season when further injuries cannot be discounted, has decided to bide his time before drafting in a replacement.

“It was a phone call I didn’t want,” the Scot said of the O’Leary injury. “I’m obviously desperately disappointed for the player, but we’ll take our time and keep our eye on things. I’m not looking to name a replacement for 10 to 14 days. There’s some rugby to watch and I’ll take my time.”

Dwayne Peel, Danny Care and Mike Blair had been considered the obvious frontrunners for a call-up, but reports over the weekend have suggested that Perpignan’s Chris Cusiter is now top of the pecking order.