Ian McKinley: From losing his vision in one eye, to The Azzurri call-up

“I never had any intention of playing again, how could I? I didn’t put myself on any registration lists.” — Ian McKinley

The words of Irish-born Ian McKinley following a serious injury whilst contracted to Leinster. McKinley had to retire after the fly-half had a boot to his eye six years ago, he lost the vision in his left eye; his rugby career seemingly over. 

However, quite remarkably, the Irishman is back, and has played 21 Treviso games in this season’s Pro12 and Challenge Cup.

Image Source: Twitter
Image Source: Twitter

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The fly-half pays great gratitude to his brother who got him back playing again. Following his brother’s visit to see McKinley coaching the sport in Italy, he seemed dejected, and missing playing rugby.

On his brother’s return to Ireland, he made it his job to get Ian playing again. He met up with student, Johnny Merrigan, who dropped his final year project to make special protective goggles which would allow McKinley to play again.

“In my mind, rugby is a game for everyone – it’s a game for all shapes and all sizes – and I wanted people to know that just because you are different then you can still continue to play the game you love.” — Ian McKinley, speaking to the Telegraph

The Irishman has now gone one further, stepping up from Pro12 by being called up to the Italian national side. Head coach, Conor O’Shea, was able to call up his fellow Irishman due to the Italian residency rule.

Italy themselves had a hugely disappointing Six Nations campaign, not winning a single game, and picking up the wooden spoon in the process. Fly-half, McKinley, could provide that much needed inspiration to the Azzuri for the summer tests against Scotland, Fiji and Australia.