Sean Doyle arrived at Ulster from his native Australia at the start of last season and made an immediate impact starting in the first three PRO12 games but disaster struck when playing in a club game for Dungannon against Dublin University, the flanker suffered an undisplaced fracture of the fibula which virtually ended his season.
Doyle did make a brief appearance in the last regular season league game but it was a largely disappointing year for the back rower who’d come to Ulster looking a fresh start and was given some help by fellow country man Adam D’Arcy.
“I played against Adam, we’re both Sydney boys and he played for Manly while I played for Southern Districts and I played in one of his last games before he came over here,” said Doyle
“Before I came over I contacted him on Facebook to suss things out, he actually picked me up at the airport when I arrived.”
Doyle knew he had sustained an injury but didn’t realise it was as serious.
“I thought something was up and I tried to play on a bit but something didn’t feel right and I got it checked out by the physios who told me it was 100% broken and that I’d broken my fibia.”
“It didn’t go too well in the healing process and then 15 weeks into it I had surgery and I had a plate and some screws in there but it’s been grand.”
“It was a pretty quick recover after that and I got back running and though it’s a bit different now with a plate it’s fine.”
With a lack of groundhog open side flankers in the Irish game Doyle is hoping his abrasive style can help him establish a regular place in the Ulster starting line up and maybe high up but he knows there is a lot of hard work ahead.
“I’ve got Irish qualification so that’s something that may get looked at further down the road but it was tough breaking through at home.”
“I’d had a few games for the Waratahs As and Western Force As but all the seven slots at home were sewn up so it was very hard to get in even though I was playing some good footie.”
“I got the opportunity to come over here and maybe progress further.”
“I came over originally on trial so I still had a month to go on that and then it was a bit up in the air. I thought I’d done well coming over here and played some trials and managed to start three games and I thought I got better with every game.”
“I thought my form helped me but my slow recovery definitely didn’t and I didn’t get playing again until the end of the season.”
Doyle was back home in the summer and was able to take in a Lions test and after Tom Court’s call up he joked he was also looking a game for Gatland’s side.
“I actually got to the first test at Brisbane and I saw Rory (Best) there, one of my friends was playing second row for the Wallabies so I had one of his shirts on and Rory was giving me grief at the side of the pitch afterwards for wearing it, the tour was something special and it blew me away.”
Tom played his cards right, he was on holiday back home in Brisbane which is just up the road and he got the surprise call-up.”
“I put a bit of a tweet out there saying Gatland have you any other injuries and I’m here in Australia and waiting but I missed the boat there even though I thought I was a shoe-in.”