Treviso impressed with Irishman McKinley's impact ahead of Pro12

The 26-year-old out-half will hope to face Leinster in the RDS in two weekends’ time.

HAVING MADE A remarkable return to the Guinness Pro12 last season with Zebre, former Leinster out-half Ian McKinley has enjoyed a fine start to life with new club Treviso ahead of the start of the 2016/17 season.

Ian McKinley McKinley played three times for Zebre last season. Source: Francesca Soli/INPHO

The 26-year-old has impressed Treviso’s new head coach, New Zealander Kieran Crowley, in pre-season and has already earned a place in the Italian club’s leadership group as they plan to become far more competitive in the Pro12.

McKinley, who retired from professional rugby in 2011 after losing the sight in his left eye and now wears protective goggles, was with Zebre as a ‘permit player’ last season, making one start against Leinster and earning a further two appearances off the bench.

Having been signed permanently by Treviso this summer, McKinley faces strong competition for the out-half slot.

Italy international Tommaso Allan has also joined, while classy New Zealander Marty Banks will arrive in October after his Mitre 10 Cup commitments with Tasman have concluded.

However, McKinley has got off to a good start in the battle for the 10 shirt, starting the 42-10 pre-season win over Grenoble and then featuring off the bench in a 33-10 defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend.

“Ian can play a part for us,” says head coach Crowley. “He played 60-odd minutes against Grenoble and then played 40 again last week. Ian has come on really well, he’s playing really well. He attacks the line.

Ian McKinley McKinley has worked hard to rebuild his professional career. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

“Because he’s been out of that level for a couple of years, he is still coming to terms a little bit with the decision-making around it, but I certainly see him as a genuine option for us moving forward.

“He’s a great guy and he certainly adds to the team. He works hard at it. To come back from what he’s experienced is a massive effort and you wouldn’t know he’s had that except for the goggles he wears.

It’s big credit to him and he’s part of our leadership group, so he’s certainly adding.”

St Columba’s alumnus McKinley played for Ireland at U19 and U20 levels, before advancing into the Leinster set-up and making his senior debut at out-half in 2009.

Having made a second start for his home province under Joe Schmidt the following season, McKinley suffered a serious eye injury in a club game for UCD in 2010, but made an incredible recovery to earn another four appearances for Leinster.

However, McKinley subsequently lost the sight in his left eye and was forced to retire in the summer of 2011.

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Ian McKinley McKinley showed rich promise at Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Three years later, by then wearing a pair of Raleri’s protective goggles while playing, McKinley signed a professional contract with Italian Super 10 club Viadana.

He had initially moved to Italy to take up a coaching position, but found himself starring for Serie C outfit Leonorso and earning his first step back up the ladder. Zebre came calling last season, and now McKinley is in the thick of pre-season with Treviso.

Crowley’s side play their final friendly game of the summer against Zebre on Friday evening, when McKinley will hope for a final audition ahead of the Pro12 season.

All going well, McKinley will be part of Treviso’s visit to the RDS on the first night of the new league season, Friday 2 September.

If he is involved, McKinley is likely to be fondly welcomed by Leinster supporters who recall his compelling playmaking ability and strong left-footed kicking as an emerging force at out-half.

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