It’s the other side of Dublin GAA, a life away from glory days and celebrations, away from the chase for Liam or Sam. It’s going from, “100 miles an hour to nothing in the space of 5 seconds with no adjustment time.” Life as an injured inter county player brings about dark times. Ex-Dublin football veteran Denis Bastick describes it as a “weight on your shoulders” stopping you from doing one of the things you love most in life.
Injuries vary, from banal niggles that make agile movement impossible to the horrors of broken cheekbones and repeat shoulder dislocations. Then there are injuries with potential long term consequences involving tendons, ligaments, and months and months of recovery. All for the love of the game.
He may be young, but Dublin hurler Eoghan O’Donnell has had his fair share of injuries over the years. He echoes more experienced players in the other codes when he describes the feeling in the moments after an injury as “devastation”. Not over the pain of the injury sustained but the thought of missing the rest of a game, league or championship. Working so hard all year for the pride of pulling on the blue jersey, only to have it all taken away in seconds.
For Bastick, watching the team go on without him during periods of injury was frustrating, “you want to be out there but you hope they do well and watch the areas around your position to see if you can pick up tips.”
Support from the team is definitely a factor for all the players, Bastick says:
“Being around the team you do get that bit of support… there’s ways we can help each other out when we are injured because they are dark times for the individual.”
For all the players, figuring out what you can do in addition to your rehab to keep yourself ticking over is key to success.
It’s more difficult with an injury that needs a period of total rest, like a break. O’Donnell spent the balmy summer of 2013 in a cast from hip to ankle. As well as completely ruining his tan, it was a dark time for the U21 Leinster Champion.
“You have everything, you’re flying, you’re in top shape and then you’re sitting on the couch or you are sitting at training watching and you have no power to help or contribute at all, it’s a tough position to be in.”
For Sinéad Goldrick, ex-captain of the Dublin ladies football team, having a plan really helped during an 8 week stint away from the game with a ligament injury. Disappointed and frustrated but thankful it wasn’t her cruciate; “I had a goal at the end of it and a really good rehab programme. I took it week by week and was hitting the milestones and that drives you on.”
Of course family and friends are very important during these times, they row in and offer the emotional support players need when they are not able to play.
The passion for the game is so strong the temptation is always to return too soon, a hard lesson learned by Ali Twomey, Dublin Camogie, following an ankle break. Determined to make it back to help her team in the first round of the championship, the gifted score-smith did more damage resulting in another few weeks out of the game...
“It is horrible knowing you’re not playing…that killed me.”
All the Dublin players praised the excellence of the physical therapy they had access to on their return to the game. When they do get back on the pitch, Goldrick cites belief in both the physios and the rehab programmes as contributing to a confident return.
Mentally, a bad injury can be hard to put to one side. Bastick has an injury list longer than most. On his return from the dreaded cruciate he remembers “not going into contact as much as I should, probably until you get that first bang on that knee…you realise I’m ok here now”.
Being closer to the end than the beginning of his career, Bastick is most concerned about the long term damage his playing years may have done to his body. In his mid-thirties, he already has arthritis in some of his joints and faces the prospect of more difficulties as he gets older. He is concerned for younger players as GAA training becomes more and more professional.
“Younger guys have 4/5 different coaches between hurling, football, college and club. And everybody wants a piece of that player, there wouldn’t be much collaboration and guys feel pressurised into doing it all. I think we’ll see a lot more younger retirements.”
His advice to younger players? “Enjoy and appreciate how lucky you are to be there; it could all change in the blink of an eye. I’ve seen players who have had bad injuries and haven’t come back.” Either way, he says, time goes by in the blink of an eye.
A personal injury, whether it is on the pitch or not, will have a significant impact on you physically, mentally and financially. Find out more about how personal injury insurance could help meet these unexpected costs.