James Culhane is in the Leinster academy. Evan Treacy/INPHO
Health scare

Just months after acute kidney failure, Culhane shines for Emerging Ireland

The 19-year-old was hospitalised for four weeks after starring for the Ireland U20s.

RIGHT AT THE start of April this year, James Culhane was on top of the world.

The 19-year-old had helped the Ireland U20s to an impressive Grand Slam in the Six Nations and was named Player of the Championship after five thunderous performances in the number eight shirt.

He was a shoo-in for a place in the Leinster academy and everything was looking rosy, when all of a sudden his world was turned upside down.

Culhane’s kidneys went into acute failure and he had to be hospitalised.

“It was really random,” said Culhane yesterday.

“It was just from over-training and dehydration and stuff.

“It was really out of the blue and I ended up in hospital for like four weeks. It all repaired itself thankfully, but it took a good few months to get back to full fitness.”

When he was initially admitted into hospital and diagnosed, Culhane had no idea what would happen next.

“At the start, I wasn’t sure when I would be back or if I would be able to get back to full fitness,” he explained.

“I’m just really grateful I had the support and now I’m here thankfully.”

‘Here’ is South Africa and Culhane was speaking only a few minutes after shining in the number eight jersey for Emerging Ireland in their win over the Pumas. The ex-De La Salle Palmerston FC player scored two tries in what was a complete performance.

That he was so recently going through what he underplays as his “rough stint” in a hospital bed makes his achievement all the more impressive. Culhane was only able to get back to full training in July, having missed the Ireland U20s’ Summer Series in Italy.

To his credit, he has picked up exactly where he left off, charging over the gainline and launching himself into tackles and breakdowns. The Wicklow native appears to take real glee in getting stuck in physically, but he has nice handling skills too.

james-culhane Culhane scored two tries yesterday. Steve Haag / INPHO Steve Haag / INPHO / INPHO

He delighted in playing against some “massive lads” in the Pumas team and Culhane is just relishing every minute of this Emerging Ireland tour in South Africa.

“I was obviously hoping to be involved but I wasn’t expecting it, just coming from 20s last year,” he said.

“At the start of this year, I would have been happy to even play a Six Nations game for the U20s and now I’m here, so I’m just taking it every moment as it comes to be honest, and making the most of the opportunities I’m getting because I’m just really lucky.”

He has enjoyed learning from the older players and the Irish coaches, with Paul O’Connell’s influence standing out.

“I’ve been a sponge next to him, just absorbing knowledge,” said Culhane.

“It’s just extremely technical, around lineout, stuff I’ve never really learned before. Around the breakdown, just being the most efficient and just always backing our game and always being an option no matter what.”

Following Sunday’s game against the Cheetahs, Culhane will travel back to Ireland intent on making an impression within the Leinster set-up and in the AIL with UCD, but he’s keen to squeeze every last drop out of this tour first.

He has embraced the challenge and been backed by the Irish coaches to do his thing.

“Even before the match, Simon [Easterby] just said ‘We are really looking forward to seeing you, especially your basics, your carry, solid defence. Just be yourself out there.’

“That was really encouraging.”

Get instant updates on your province on The42 app. With Laya Healthcare, official health and wellbeing partner to Leinster, Munster and Connacht Rugby.

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