The British and Irish Lions 2013: Inside the mind of Cian Healy
Stamping on Cole and biting allegation on Lions tour have put softly-spoken prop in spotlight
Friday 07 June 2013
You know when Cian Healy is present at an Ireland training camp the moment you drive into the car park of the luxurious Carton House on the outskirts of Dublin City. In a sea of sponsored Volkswagens and Audis, Healy's gigantic Land Rover sticks out like a sore thumb.
The blue-grey Defender Big Foot, with its oversized tyres, tinted windows and air-intake pipe is just one avenue of expression for one of Irish rugby's freer thinkers.
A self-confessed "gym head", Healy manages to dovetail predictable athletic pursuits with his passion for art, DJ-ing and off-roading in his massive 4x4 – pictures of which he posts on Twitter whenever it falls foul of Dublin clampers. Which is often.
However, until February last, the loosehead prop's run-ins with Dublin Council's parking services were his only noteworthy brushes with authority. An Ireland and Leinster regular since 2009 in a particularly abrasive position, the 25-year-old's first appearance before a disciplinary hearing came after he was cited for stamping on England's Dan Cole during Ireland's Six Nations defeat to England.
He was effectively banned for two matches, but the IRB was forced into an embarrassing retreat when Ireland appealed against the convoluted structure of Healy's three-week ban. He returned for the draw with France having missed – and been missed in – the defeat to Scotland.
Cited for allegedly biting Western Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan, Healy was last night facing a disciplinary hearing in Brisbane and the prospect of becoming the first Lion of the professional era to be sent home in disgrace since Danny Grewcock, also for biting, from New Zealand in 2005. That will surely have caused him more pain than the ankle-ligament injury that could well end his tour regardless.
The softly spoken prop may struggle to cope with the opprobrium that will inevitably rain down if he is found guilty, even if he has some limited experience of what to expect in the wake of the stamp on Cole.
Then, the well-known Irish radio and television pundit George Hook fuelled the fires by claiming that he would think twice about recommending his grandchildren play rugby after Healy's ban was reduced to one game.
Also, the player himself revealed that he received a "pretty violent letter into camp. I read the first line and gave it to Mick [Kearney, Ireland team manager] and let him dispose of it," he said. "I wouldn't like to repeat it. It was a rough enough letter," he added at the time, before brushing it off as quickly as he could. "I shifted that one quick enough because it takes a certain type of person to send hate mail. Those people don't really matter to me."
That was about as revealing an interview as Healy has given in his five seasons at the top level of the game in Ireland. Neither rude nor arrogant, Healy usually gives the impression of a man trying to get out of the interview room having given away as little as possible.
An All-Ireland javelin, shot put and discus champion at schools level, Healy's focus on strength-based throwing sports went hand in glove with his schools rugby career, and in 2005 he helped Belvedere College end their 33-year wait for a Leinster Senior Schools title.
International recognition followed at schools, under-19 and under-20 level before, in 2007, the Clontarf FC player made his Leinster debut in an end-of-season Celtic League match against the now defunct Scottish Borders.
It took Healy a couple of seasons to nail down his starting place, but since displacing veteran Stan Wright, he hasn't looked back. Three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Challenge Cup and two league titles have been won as Healy became a crucial member of the formidable Leinster teams of Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt.
And Schmidt's appointment as Declan Kidney's successor as Ireland coach will secure Healy's status as Ireland's first-choice loosehead, with 39 caps racked up since making his debut against Australia in 2009. But, as is often the lot of a prop, Healy has not – until now – grabbed as many headlines as lauded team-mates such as Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Jonny Sexton.
However, he and his good buddy, the Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip, are known to level the playing field with their pranks, once filling Sexton's car with plastic balls from a children's playpen. When Healy cling-filmed Heaslip's jeep to two lamp-posts, the victim gleefully posted the pictures on Twitter.
Healy's interest in art has led to him painting portraits of O'Driscoll and Sexton, while he has more than once performed as a DJ at Ireland's largest music festival Oxegen, under his stage name Proper Church.
Throw in the fact that he is dating model Holly Carpenter and you have all the trappings of a pseudo-celebrity sporting star – except this shy man seems completely disinterested in the limelight.
However, he may now find it hard to stay out of its unwanted glare.
Two to make England debut
Wasps wing Christian Wade and Gloucester-bound flanker Matt Kvesic will make their England debuts against Argentina in tomorrow's first Test in Salta. Three more uncapped players – Bath fly-half Kyle Eastmond, Sale prop Henry Thomas and new Saracens recruit Billy Vunipola – are on the bench.
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food