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Three Irish players named as concussion lawsuit proceedings begin

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Three players – two of them former Ireland internationals, including David Corkery – have begun legal proceedings against the IRFU and other rugby governing bodies over concussion. It was July 27 this year when it emerged that the governing body for rugby in Ireland would face a case over serious brain injuries allegedly suffered by players during their playing careers.

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That news emerged just two days after separate proceedings against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union were due to be issued at court in the UK by Rylands Law on behalf of a group of professional and semi-professional players against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

With proceedings having now been initiated in the Irish High Court on Wednesday, the previously unnamed players have been identified as Corkery, Declan Fitzpatrick and Ben Marshall. The 49-year-old Corkery, the back-rower who played 27 times for Ireland between 1994 and 1999 and who represented Bristol in the Premiership, is taking his action against the IRFU, Munster Rugby and World Rugby.

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In a RugbyPass+ interview earlier this year, Corkery explained his concerns over headaches and the results of brain scans he had taken. “Sleep is a struggle… Some of the results that have come back have not been great. I really worry about it, the head. When I played, I had no respect for my body. I got knocked out. I woke up and a few seconds later I was playing again. That’s not right. That shouldn’t have been the case.

“We are obliged to be careful because the brain is so delicate. It gives me shivers when I see the hits in the modern game. I got so many concussions, I lost count. I’ve suffered from depression for years. The black dog is always in the corner, ready to bark. It is a question nagging away at me all the time. Anxiety, you read about what has happened to the NFL players. My depression, is it related to those head injuries? I don’t know.”

Fitzpatrick, the 39-year-old former prop who played seven times for Ireland in 2012 and 2013, is suing the IRFU, Ulster Rugby and World Rugby. It is believed that he quit the sport after suffering six concussions in his career, four in his final three seasons. The second row Marshall, meanwhile, played for Leinster and Connacht between 2010 and 2017 before being forced to retire due to concussion. The 32-year-old is suing Leinster Rugby, Connacht Rugby, the IRFU and World Rugby.

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All three former players are represented by Maguire McClafferty, who made no immediate comment on Wednesday’s High Court development in Dublin. In July, though, senior partner Manus McClafferty had said: “There are Irish players involved, yes… I can tell you that proceedings are prepared and will, probably, be issued, I believe, by the end of September. I have them ready.”

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