Munster and Irish Rugby was hit with a huge blow when it was announced that 25-year-old Johnny Holland would be forced to retire due to injury.
Holland had displayed his immense talent and potential in claiming the first choice outhalf spot for Munster last season, and this year was meant to be the season that he announced himself. Instead, he made a rather more upsetting announcement.
Like Eoin O'Malley, he's one of the most talented players that Irish Rugby has ever had who never got the chance to reach his potential. Think I'm overstating it? Then listen to Alan Quinlan.
Quinlan took to his Irish Independent column to reveal that he thought Holland could have been the next Ronan O'Gara:
Johnny Holland could move, he could kick and could pass. He was composed. He was quick. I remember that day feeling a little like when I first saw Ronan O'Gara come to training.
Holland's potential was enormous. Not only did he have that composure that highlighted O'Gara's career - he was able to tackle. He could create. Nothing phased him - even when he produced against Leinster on the biggest stage last season:
A day out at the Aviva. Holland produces. His left leg was as good as anyone's. Leinster beat Munster but he scores a try and gets all of Munster's points. And when people walk away from the stadium that night, there's only one name on their lips.
It's an eye-opening column from Quinlan, especially when he lists the names that Munster have had retire prematurely in the last ten to 15 years: Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, Denis Leamy, David Wallace, Barry Murphy, Ian Dowling, Damien Varley and Felix Jones. That doesn't include the likes of O'Connell, Stringer, O'Callaghan, Howlett, and O'Gara who have moved on.
It's no wonder that Munster struggled last year, and it's another reason to feel that twinge of sadness that Holland was forced to call it a day. He was the first player to stop people from talking about O'Gara. When Bill Johnston comes through from the academy provided his shoulder holds up - he'll be called the next O'Gara.
He could have been the next Holland.
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