Cian Healy fully focused on pursuit of silverware as season’s climax approaches

Leinster stalwart has signed up for a 19th year with the province but for now it’s all about the dual challenge for the URC and Champions Cup

Cian Healy, who has signed a contract extension and will embrace a 19th preseason in the blue of Leinster later this summer, has accumulated many milestones and records in appearance terms of late, but they matter less to him than the prospect of more medals and silverware.

Over the coming weeks the province and its most senior current player will try to chase down trophies in the United Rugby Championship (URC) and Champions Cup – Leinster haven’t won silverware for a couple of years – a series of matches that continues with Saturday’s trip to Belfast where Richie Murphy’s Ulster await.

During the Six Nations Healy eased into second place on the all-time list of Ireland appearances (129), breaking a tie with Ronan O’Gara (128) and moving to four behind Brian O’Driscoll.

At Croke Park in the Champions Cup semi-final win over the Northampton Saints he became the player with the most appearances in the European tournament (111) with the prospect of extending that mark against Toulouse in Saturday week’s final in London.

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When the 36-year-old togs out against Ulster he will move to within four caps of Devin Toner’s leading mark (280) at Leinster, a far cry from his debut against the now defunct Border Reivers in the last game to be played at Donnybrook before it was refurbished, 17 years ago earlier this month.

Healy, 19, who made his debut on a day when two props Reggie Corrigan and Will Green signed off with farewell appearances for the province, is happy to keep trucking in the belief that he can still contribute at loose head prop, tight head prop or, as he demonstrated for Ireland against Scotland, at hooker.

Healy is one of six players to have won four European Cups alongside fellow Leinster players Johnny Sexton, Isa Nacewa and Devin Toner, and Toulouse duo Cedric Heymans and Freddie Michalak. A fifth is in the offing for the Clontarf icon.

When a player gets to a certain age and elects to continue, the first line in questioning is invariably, why?

Healy said: “It’s more a case of what’s stopping me? It’s just such a good environment to be in and an opportunity to do another year of what I love. It will be long enough after, when I’m not playing rugby, so I’m going to enjoy every bit of it that I can.

“It’s just that I love what I do, and I love the people I do it with. There have been a lot of life experiences, and it feels like they are all ground into about five years. It doesn’t feel like that long ago I started out. I just love testing myself against different teams and having had the opportunity to do it so many times.”

Experience teaches Healy where his focus should be.

“There is business not yet attended to and opportunity. Luck comes in [to it], planning comes in, lots of stuff comes in,” he admitted about winning trophies. “It’s about staying focused and how you get yourself around the intention to win both competitions.

“We will screw up our whole league campaign if we focus on next week. We do well in the early part of the season day-by-day, week-by-week and there’s no reason to vary off that just because it’s the business end of the season.

“That’s the model that works and that’s how players are cultured from kids now. It’s week-by-week. That’s the Leinster way and it’s a way that works and a way that keeps people focused on the task at hand.”

Ulster beat Leinster 22-21 at the RDS earlier in the season and, while players rarely acknowledge revenge as a motivation, there is a practical need to get a result for both sides as they chase different goals.

Healy said: “They exposed us in quite a few areas in that game. It’s up to us as forwards to front up in the tight trenches to release our backs and let them play. It’s a tough challenge. Ulster are going well. So, it’s pretty full steam ahead in here.”

Although any retirement plans have been delayed for at least another season, he was asked whether coaching would some day be of interest.

“It’s starting to appeal to me a bit. There have been a couple of times over the last while in Irish camp and with Leinster where I have been able to fix issues when it’s not necessarily me. Plus being in a bench role has allowed me to see more of what goes on and the problem solving of it. I have enjoyed that, and it’s worked. So, we will see. It’s not for now, like.”

There’s hopefully so much left to do as a player.

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