The joy on the flanker’s face after he scored was so heartening to see.
It has been a long, tough road back but Josh van der Flier got his reward. Bernard Brogan almost enjoyed it as much as the Leinster star.
Back in February, van der Flier and Brogan suffered devastating cruciate ligament injuries on the same weekend. Brogan injured his in training with Dublin while van der Flier popped his on the Stade de France pitch during Ireland’s tense Six Nations win over France.
Both men formed a bond in the months that followed as they stayed in touch, offered support and rehabbed their injuries. According to Brogan, Fergus McFadden had suffered a similar injury and returned to play four and a half months later. For him, that was the goal.
In August, beating McFadden’s return record, Brogan came on as a sub in Dublin’s Super 8s win over Roscommon. He was also given the privilege of wearing the No.27 jersey and accompanying the Dublin matchday squad out onto the Croke Park pitch before their All-Ireland final win over Tyrone.
Van der Flier was returning to the pitch at the same time, but it was at Leinster’s training facilities out at UCD. His pre-season was delayed by a couple of weeks but he hit all the markers asked of him and was good to go for round three of the Guinness PRO14.
The Dubliner was named at openside flanker for the visit of Dragons to The RDS and helped Leinster put them to the pump. The Welsh side held out for as long as they could but eventually copped a 52-10 beating.
— eir Sport (@eirSport) September 15, 2018
Van der Flier got over for a try just on half-time after a well-worked scrum move that saw him detach from the set-piece once the ball was out and take the inside pass that wrong-footed half the Dragons defence.
He let out a primal roar as he touched down and you instantly knew the journey back had been worth the strife and effort.
The openside played the full 80 minutes too and his final match stats were pretty decent – eight carries for 10 metres gained, one line break, one try, 28 ruck involvements and 10 successful tackles (none missed).
Van der Flier must have been chuffed with his return but he was not the only one. Soon after the final whistle sounded, Brogan sent the Leinster star this lovely message:
— Bernard Brogan (@bernardbrogan) September 15, 2018
They’ve both come from injuries that have ended many careers and appreciate all that went on to get back to their best.