DAVID ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan has confirmed his return to the Dublin senior hurling panel after a serious back injury threatened to end his inter-county career.
The 33-year-old forward is now aiming to stake a claim for a championship jersey when the Dubs face Galway in the Leinster SHC quarter-final on May 28.
The experienced sharpshooter, who has returned to his home club St Mark’s, underwent surgery last October after he was diagnosed with nerve damage related to a prolapsed disc.
O’Callaghan believes that the issue may relate back to an injury he suffered playing in an U21 football match ten years ago but it got progressively worse following last year’s Leinster championship defeat to Kilkenny.
He was ruled out of action from then until coming through some recent club games unscathed.
And he’s been back with the Dublin squad in the past fortnight, as manager Ger Cunningham focuses in on the Galway test at O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
O’Callaghan underwent a series of injections before surgery became a live option.
He recalls: “Without surgery, you try to strengthen the area and go that route but it wasn’t really easing.
“I had an EMG test and I was in Japan at the time the surgeon was trying to ring me to get back and get going with an operation.
“I was flying home from Hong Kong and getting a bit worried because I was quite uncomfortable on the flight. That was last September, and I had surgery in October.”
The EMG (electromyogram) and nerve conduction studies diagnosed nerve damage on a high scale for O’Callaghan.
And he revealed: “I could feel it into my toes and there was a fear of foot drop.
“As the surgeon said to me, you don’t know the full outcome of the nerve regeneration, it could take two years.
“I can still feel symptoms down into my foot but it’s not affecting me or affecting the power or anything like that.
“I got one of those reflex tests in the back of the knee and ankle and it’s gone in the ankle, there’s no reflex in it. I can still feel the nerve into the sole of my foot, it’s weird, but it’s not huge discomfort.
“I’m back running now and I’ve had a good month’s training, working with strength and conditioning coach Cillian Reardon and physio Eamon O’Reilly.
“I’ve been back with Dublin for the last two weeks but I’ve done a lot of work myself. I was humming and hawing all through the year but it’s nice to be away from it too and have the chance to weigh it up and see.
“It started to improve throughout the year and I was confident enough. I played a couple of club games (including in goal for the St Mark’s juniors) and I feel I’ve nothing to lose. It’s an opportunity to go back in with Dublin, get on a bit of a run and stake a claim for a championship jersey.”
O’Callaghan added: “I’m at a point where I’m coming to a stage where I’m weighing things up at the end of each year anyway but sportspeople generally talk about the next challenge, and it gave me a bit of a target.
“Being driven home from the Santry Sports surgery clinic wasn’t the most comfortable journey but in the back of my mind, I was leaving it open. You have your little targets and thankfully I’m back in the squad and training is going well, and the body feels good.”
O’Callaghan acknowledges that Dublin couldn’t have asked for a much tougher championship opener against the Allianz League finalists.
He said: “You would certainly put Galway up among the top teams currently at the moment. They’ve proven that by getting to the League final as well.
“They’ve got a hugely strong squad and they’re progressing nicely along. I’m sure it’s going to be a huge battle and a huge challenge for the group. It’s going to be a new challenge for a lot of the lads and all we can do is prepare as best we can for that.”
Cunningham, meanwhile, will run the rule over players in forthcoming club matches as he finalises his championship panel.
Cuala’s Schutte brothers, Paul and Mark, are still not involved while fringe players Sean McGrath and Oisin O’Rorke have recently departed.
Cunningham has narrowed his panel down from over 40 during the winter months to a more manageable number in the low to mid-30s, but he’s maintaining an ‘open door’ policy.
Source: The42 GAA/SoundCloud
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