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Dublin: 7 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

Darragh Fanning: 'I pulled at my t-shirt and the blood was bubbling out of my chest'

The Leinster wing writes about the worst injury he has suffered, a punctured lung.

BEING INJURED AT any stage of the season is incredibly frustrating, but I never need too long to remind myself of how fortunate I am.

It’s not just that 51 weeks on from giving and taking passes from distracted Sevens players in Kinsale, I was giving and taking passes from Brian O’Driscoll in the Pro12 – though that’s part of it.

I’m lucky because no rugby injury I’ve suffered has come close to being the worst of my life.

In school and when I was 10 or 11 I’ve had a few breaks of hands but nothing major. I’ve been lucky enough through my senior rugby career: I had a burst appendix that pretty much ended my time in Connacht, a knee injury with Mary’s when I was just out of school and, when I was waiting on surgery for that, I was stabbed.

Giulio Toniolatti and Darragh Fanning Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The night it happened myself, Jonathan Sexton and a couple of other lads from St Mary’s club were out in Rathmines and we ended up trying to break up a fight after leaving the nightclub.

What we couldn’t know then, was that a girl in the middle of everything had a pair of hairdressing scissors. A couple of the lads got slashed, luckily not too badly, but I just managed to catch it straight on and it punctured my lung.

Since it happened I’ve watched it all back again. It’s a surreal experience watching yourself amble around the street without a clue that you’ve been stabbed in the chest.

At the time it felt like I’d been hit with a hammer, or an unbelievable punch. I was probably not quite with it, in shock and with adrenaline coursing through my veins. On the CCTV you can see the blood appear on my t-shirt. I turn away and, when I swing back around, the blood patch on my chest is getting a little bigger.

I was still standing upright and moving almost as if nothing has happened. Until I tried to run over and break up another scuffle, that’s when I needed to catch my breath and looked down at my t-shirt. My first reaction was, ‘someone’s got blood on my new t-shirt,’ but that didn’t last long.

I pulled at the fabric and the blood was bubbling out of my chest – so I knew then that something was pretty wrong.

I was lucky that Laura Dunne, a good friend at the time, was there. She looked after me with one of the bouncers and they got me to the hospital. They fitted me with a valve to drain my chest and that was that. A few days in hospital and I was out of rugby for a while.

There was never a point when I felt my life was in danger – though I’m not sure my mother felt the same way – but it was a pretty scary time. It could have gone horribly wrong if I’d been cut centimetres to the right or left and caught an artery. That could have been the end.

I still have two scars on my chest. One where I had a valve put in to get my lung reinflated and one made much less carefully by the scissors. I don’t really notice those marks anymore. Instead I tend to look closer at the scar on my from my latest injury, a broken arm, from which thankfully I have recovered.


It happened in the last play of the game against Treviso: I carried the ball into contact and twisted. The ball was in my left hand and my right arm was caught down the side and I got hit. I went down, placed the ball back and knew something was wrong.

It’s strange, you would think you’d notice the pain of a broken arm straight away, but it’s not like that. I just felt something was up. I grabbed my arm and could feel the bone was sticking into my skin a bit. It moved and clicked a little bit. I walked off with the doctor just as Jamie Heaslip and Noel Reid ran in the last try. I think my mum must have gotten a gig on TG4’s selection panel, because that’s the second man-of-the-match I’ve stolen off Noel Reid in the last few weeks.

It was brilliant to see the lads back up that win in a tough game against Ulster on Friday and take a big step towards guaranteeing top place in the league.

Realistically, with competition for places being what it is in Leinster’s back three, my best hope of a comeback this season is probably the B&I Cup Final on May 23 in Donnybrook, but who knows? A win in a semi-final might just give me another chance to play Pro12 rugby on the big stage this season.

I might get lucky, again.

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About the author:

Darragh Fanning  / Leinster Rugby winger.

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