Healy’s love of the game still driving him on

Healy’s love of the game still driving him on

It says much about the longevity of Cian Healy’s career that his Leinster Rugby debut came against a team that no longer exists.

That was way back in May 2007 when he came on as a replacement versus the now long-since defunct Border Reivers in the old Magners League - the distant precursor to the BKT URC.

To provide some historical context, his team-mates that day at Donnybrook included the likes of Reggie Corrigan, Malcolm O’Kelly, Bernard Jackman, Denis Hickie and Felipe Contepomi - players of a different era.

But some 17 years on, Healy is still going strong and there’s no sign of him hanging up his boots any time soon, given he has just signed on for another season.

So what is it that’s keeping the 36-year-old Ireland prop going?

“It’s more a case of what’s not - what’s stopping me?” he replies.

“It’s just such a good environment to be in and an opportunity to do another year of what I love.

“It will be long enough after, when I’m not playing rugby, so I’m going to enjoy every bit of it that I can.

“It’s just I love what I do and I love the people I do it with.

“There have been a lot of life experiences and it feels like they are all ground into about five years. It doesn’t feel like that long ago I started out.

“I just love testing myself against different teams and having had the opportunity to do it so many times.”

What also drives Healy on is the quest for silverware, with Leinster aiming to secure the double of the BKT URC and Investec Champions Cup. That desire is all the greater with the province having gone two years without a trophy.

“There is business not yet attended to and opportunity,” says the Dublin-born loosehead.

He has shared in a league and cup double once before, back in 2018, so what was the secret to that success?

“Luck comes in, planning comes in, lots of stuff comes in,” he replies.

“It’s about staying focused and how you get yourself around the intention to win both competitions.”

With that in mind, attention is very much on Saturday’s BKT URC clash with Ulster Rugby in Belfast rather than on the Champions Cup final against Toulouse seven days later.

“We will screw up our whole league campaign if we focus on next week,” said Healy.

“We do well in the early part of the season day-by-day, week-by-week and there’s no reason to vary off that just because it’s the business end of the season.

“That’s the model that works and that’s how players are cultured from kids now. It’s week-by-week.

That’s the Leinster way and it’s a way that works and a way that keeps people focused on the task at hand.”

The meeting with sixth-placed Ulster provides second-placed Leinster with an opportunity to gain revenge for the 22-21 home defeat at the RDS on New Year’s Day.

“They exposed us in quite a few areas in that game,” admitted the Dublin-born Healy.

“It’s up to us as forwards to front up in the tight trenches to release our backs and let them play.

“It’s a tough challenge. Ulster are going well. So it’s pretty full steam ahead in here.”

It’s certainly been some career for Healy. He has made 275 appearances for Leinster, while his tally of 129 caps for Ireland is surpassed only by Brian O’Driscoll and he keeps on adding to that total, having figured in four games during this season’s Six Nations title triumph.

Now the goal is to add to that with further trophies at provincial level over the coming weeks.

When he does finally call it a day, one wonders whether Healy will look to stay involved in rugby on the coaching front.

“It’s starting to appeal to me a bit,” he replies.

“There have been a couple of times over the last while in Irish camp and with Leinster where I have been able to fix issues when it’s not necessarily me.

“Plus being in a bench role has allowed me to see more of what goes on and the problem solving of it. I have enjoyed that and it’s worked. So we will see. It’s not for now, like.”

Not for now indeed, with plenty of gas left in the tank and plenty to aim for.

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