“I FELT LIKE I was banging my head against a wall.
“Everyone has it at different points in their career, when things aren’t going right. You definitely go through those phases where you are in a low enough place, a dark spot and I would have had dark enough thoughts.
“But you’ve got to keep fighting and that is the key in all of this.”
It is Leinster’s good fortune that Luke Fitzgerald can emerge from periods of low morale with his intent to regain full fitness intact and reinforced. The hope is that Ireland can benefit from that mindset in the coming season too.
The 26-year-old’s version of Groundhog Day has involved knee and neck injuries, but surgery in Mater Hospital three weeks ago has, hopefully, remedied his latest battle – recurring problems with his groins and abs.
While the second half of the 2013/14 season was ruined for the former Blackrock man, he draws on the pluses of the campaign in his inimitable and infectious manner as he prepares to regain his Leinster and Ireland status.
“There were parts of it that were very positive. I was really happy with how I played when I played. Having played well and having positives to bring from last season, I am very confident that, when fit, I can get back into those squads.”
Surgeon Gerry McEntee made “little slices around the tendon” on both of Fitzgerald’s groins and repaired both his lower abs last month in a procedure that “was pretty successful from what I gather,” explains the Leinster back.
Fitzgerald now hopes to return to playing in September, although caution will be involved: “It was pretty substantial surgery, a pretty uncomfortable area as you can imagine. The rehab is pretty straightforward I think.”
Fingers crossed I am in pretty good hands. I have obviously had well-documented experiences with injury, so I feel like I know my way around it a little bit now. I am pretty happy with the guys. “
The 2009 Lions tourist has previously expressed his desire to play at outside centre in the long-term, but it was on the left wing that he excelled as an attacking leader for Leinster last season. What role has he targeted for his comeback?
“I just had a meeting with Mattie [O'Connor], but what is important – and we both agreed on this – is just to get back playing; that is the key for me. It looks like I will probably be starting off on the wing.
“That might be a good thing because I was playing good rugby there last season. Just playing my way back into rugby, get a couple of games under my belt and see how I am going, play myself into some form and go from there.
“There is huge competition in the squad. There are a lot of guys who are pretty versatile as well. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out after a couple of games. Obviously, it [outside centre] is an area I would love to give a go, but if I didn’t and I was playing well, I would still be happy on the wing.”
In the seemingly endless cycle of major peaks and troughs in Fitzgerald’s career, he finds himself still desiring to improve and make his highs even higher.
27 Ireland caps, a Lions tour and Heineken Cup medals are not enough to satisfy his motivation.
“I feel very unfulfilled with what I feel my potential is and where I have gotten to in my career so far. I do feel definitely a bit unfulfilled, but I still feel there is an opportunity for me to achieve all those goals and to achieve my potential.
“Hopefully as long as I look after my body and it doesn’t break down again, I will have a chance to achieve all those things.”