It’s now roughly eight years since the accident that led to Ian McKinley losing the sight in his left eye.
In a freak accident, a stray boot from a fellow teammate perforated his left eye while playing a club match in 2010 for University College Dublin, leaving him partially blind in that eye.
The injury would be a career-ending one for 99.9% of professional athletes but not for McKinley.
The flyhalf retired briefly in 2011 after the shock realisation that his retina had detached, rendering him completely blind in his left eye.
He resumed his career, with the aid of protective goggles for Rugby Viadana in Italy, a semi-professional side playing in the Italian Eccellenza.
In 2015, he would make his return to the Pro12, when Zebre needed cover at flyhalf during the World Cup.
McKinley would play a further two times for Zebre throughout the course of that season, one of those fixtures was against his previous team, Leinster.
The following season he earned a contract with Benetton Treviso, where some standout performances saw the Dubliner force his way into the international setup for the 2017 November Internationals.
McKinley would make his international bow against Fiji, coming off the bench to seal the game with a penalty for the Azzurri.
McKinley has embraced his role as an ambassador for the visually impaired but doesn’t want it to define him.
“I didn’t sign up to be a poster boy,” said McKinley.
“I want people to look beyond the goggles – that goes for coaches as well.”
“I think they do: if I make a mistake I get the same treatment as other players.” ”
“If I do something well, I get the same praise.”
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