Damien Varley has spoken emotionally and honestly about finding out that his rugby career had been ended prematurely by injury, telling RTÉ Sport he has undergone “an emotional rollercoaster”.
The Munster and Ireland hooker announced on Tuesday that he had been forced to retire following surgery on an injury to the fascia of his foot, and said it was a relief to have out in public.
“I’ve known about it for a few weeks,” Varley told RTÉ Sport.
“It was time to say it today, once everything was organised. It’s probably a bit of an emotional rollercoaster today.
“Unfortunately, it happens in this game. I’m not the first, and I probably won’t be the last.”
“You’re sitting across a desk from a guy, and he holds the future in his hands, so to speak. It’s tough to hear"
The 31-year-old said the decision to retire had been made for him by a surgeon in London, which, he said, made it a little easier in one sense, in that he did not have the experience of trying in vain to rehab the injury.
But he also spoke honestly about the devastating finality of being told that he would not play again.
“You’re sitting across a desk from a guy, and he holds the future in his hands, so to speak. It’s tough to hear, and tough to deal with.”
Asked how he felt when he was given this stark advice, Varley said: “It’s a blank feeling.
“It kind of hit me when I walked out of the surgery and, you know, you’re in London, and I suppose London was where I began my career, and it was where I was told my career was no more. It was a very upsetting time.”
It was during a fitness drill in Munster training in July 2013 that Varley felt the tear on the sole of his foot.
Though he would go on to manage the recurring injury, he made his one and only appearnace of this season when Munster beat Leinster last October.
The injury returned in that game, and though he finished finished the game, Varley was aware that his next option was likely to be surgery.
“I remember kind of knowing that the next possibility was probably surgery, and kind of breaking down on my own in the dressing-room afterwards.
“And it was such a contradictory emotion, because we were so ecstatic over beating Leinster at the time...
"Not everyone gets the fairytale ending. Unfortunately we can’t write the scripts for it.”
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