Stephen Ferris knows the pain of being cursed as an injury prone player, and thus his words on Dan Leavy’s saddening retirement during the week carry extra weight. Speaking with Balls.ie, the ex-Ireland flanker gave his view on the loss of one of Ireland’s brightest sporting talents.
It must be mentioned, however, that Ferris was a bit luckier in that he got a few more years out of his career, and was able to be selected for a Lions tour and two World Cups. But he can relate to the 27-year-old Dan Leavy as a fellow uber-physical backrower whose body continually broke down through no fault of their own.
Given both players’ styles of play, it comes as no surprise that Ferris was a fan of Leavy on the pitch, explaining that: “Playing in the backrow he was a bit of a powerhouse, somebody who I had a lot of admiration for. And I loved the way he played the game, huge physicality and unfortunately a horrific knee injury.”
Ferris went on to give an insight into the mind of a player coming back from injury, someone who is trying to stay positive but knows deep down that the end of their careers may be on the horizon.
“When he (Leavy) came back playing, you know the way you talk about when somebody’s old, they’re a yard off the pace or half a yard off the pace, it just seemed like Dan wasn’t the same player when he came back again and he was trying his hardest to be the same player but sometimes your body doesn’t allow you to do that, and I only know that too well.
“I came back and played four games for Ulster after my ankle (injury), and I was not the same player. I pretended I was, and everybody I spoke to I was like ‘aw ye, feeling great, feeling fantastic, ankle’s feeling brilliant, back at it, on the bench this week, I’ll get 40 minutes, see how I recover then take it from there, feeling good’. I knew deep down a year before I retired that I was really struggling and hadn’t really turned a corner."
Ultimately Leavy knows what’s best for him and his body, and has already begun advertising his knew whiskey brand he has set up with his brother. While he probably could have pushed himself to play another couple of seasons, he would not have been the same player, and game time would have been sporadic.
And as Ferris also mentions, “You want to go out the way people remember you. At your best.”