Fomer Italy international Ian McKinley is back in the game in Ireland, coaching at Ulster schools level in Ballymena after calling time on his remarkable playing career where he achieved Test level honours despite initially retiring in 2011 following the loss of sight in an eye. 

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Now 30, the Dubliner was just a half-dozen games into his career at Leinster when the stud of a teammate perforated his left eye during an All-Ireland League club game for UCD. That appeared to be the end of his rugby days. 

However, after moving to Italy to clear his head and dabble in some underage coaching, he gave playing at junior level in 2014 a go using specially manufactured goggles for protection. 

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RugbyPass brings you Exceptional Stories, the documentary starring former Italy international Ian McKinley

That success sparked a hunger in McKinley to see how far up the ladder he could go and his inspiring journey culminated in professional deals with Guinness PRO14 clubs Zebre and Benetton, along with Test level honours with Italy. 

Having made an Italian debut in November 2017 against Fiji, he went on to earn a total of nine caps and somewhat fittingly his last international appearance came against Ireland in August 2019 back in his native Dublin. 

He saw out the 2019/20 season in Treviso but with appearances becoming less frequent following the signing of fellow Irishman Ian Keatley from Munster, lockdown resulted in the parting of ways and McKinley’s return to Ireland following an epic adventure in Italy. 

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Ballymena Academy, a grammar school catering for 1,200 11- to 18-year-olds, have tweeted their recruitment of the former out-half. “We are delighted to welcome former Italian international rugby player Ian McKinley to the coaching team at Ballymena Academy for the incoming season. Benvenuto a Ballymena Academy!”

McKinley soon responded, posting: “Delighted to be on board for the upcoming season.” RugbyPass told the McKinley story in December 2018 as part of its exceptional stories series. 

 

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