Just shy of a year since he last played, Jamie Heaslip blew the final whistle on his rugby career on Monday morning. The 34-year-old cited medical advice and a desire to "ensure my future well being" as the reasons.
The back row's final game was in last year's Six Nations against Wales. A week later, he was forced to pull out of the Ireland squad during the warm-up for the game against England in Dublin. He had been out of action since.
Subsequent to picking up that injury, Heaslip twice underwent back surgery. Less than two weeks ago, there were reports that the Naas man could return within six weeks. March 24th, according to The Herald's Des Berry, was the date marked in the calendar for his comeback.
Given those reports, it was especially unexpected for Heaslip's retirement to be announced.
According to Leinster coach Girvan Dempsey, Heaslip did indeed come close to making that return. "From my understanding, he was yeah, he got very close," Dempsey told RTÉ Sport.
He made really good progress, his rehab was going in the right direction but unfortunately he hit a speed bump and it set him back a good long way.
Then he’s trying to build himself back up from that. I’d imagine the exact details will come out in the next few days.
"We were very hopeful he was going to get back and play for us. but we realised that as it was moving on, we had to make sure the guys who were available to us were up to speed. We were very hopeful, that he would be back, potentially toward the end of the season."
Dempsey said that Heaslip worked assiduously in an attempt to make his return. Ultimately, it proved to be in vain.
"He would be in here, every morning, very early, before any of the other players, working away on off days, weekends, coming in and working away on physio, doing everything he could to get himself back and he would always pop up to the office, have a chat with Leo, the coaches, he'd have a bit of a joke and a laugh.
"You could look down at the gym though, and see at times, he was getting frustrated. He wanted to move on and get better, but it wasn't as quick [as he wanted]."