WATERFORD HURLING LEGEND Ken McGrath has revealed how the aftermath of open heart surgery left him feeling like he had been “hit by a bus.”
The ex-Déise star, winner of four Munster senior titles and three All Star awards, went under the knife at Dublin’s Beacon Hospital in April.
McGrath, 36, suffered a brain haemorrhage last December and extensive tests at Ardkeen Hospital revealed an abnormal valve and infection in his heart.
Seven weeks ago last Tuesday, McGrath underwent an eight-hour procedure and revealed how his brother Eoin was shocked when he came to visit in hospital.
McGrath said: “For the first two days (post operation), I can’t remember a thing.
“Lads that got the operation done before me told me that when you wake up, you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus – that’s the only way you can describe it.
“It was unreal for a few days. Eoin came up with the father on the Thursday and got some fright when he saw me.
“I was white as a ghost and had lost a lot of weight. But I knew that I was in safe hands. It was a job that had to be done and I knew that it would improve my quality of life in the long run.
“I was on the table for eight hours and there was another complication. Three or four days later, I was walking up the stairs in the Beacon – it’s unbelievable how fast you can recover.”
On June 27th, the Ken McGrath Allstar challenge will take place at Walsh Park, with a host of former intercounty stars playing in a benefit match to raise funds for a lengthy and costly rehabilitation process.
The respective team managers are current Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald and Kilkenny’s Brian Cody, who will send Munster and Leinster selections into battle.
McGrath is naturally thankful for all of the support that he has received to date and in a wonderful coincidence, the date of the match will mark the tenth anniversary of the classic 2004 Munster final against Cork, when 14-man Waterford somehow dug out a win.
McGrath smiled: “That game was massive – a brilliant game. It was the best game I ever played in – for the speed of it. Cork were in their prime and we were in our prime as well. It’s unbelievable to look back on it as well – the ten years fly.”
McGrath was well enough to attend the drawn Munster SHC quarter-final between the counties last Sunday week, and confirmed that he will return to Thurles as a spectator again for next weekend’s replay.
And he has called on Waterford supporters to flock to Semple Stadium in greater numbers – insisting that the Déise fan base was “poor” for the May 25 stalemate.
McGrath reflected: “I thought it was a very poor Waterford crowd – probably the worst Waterford crowd I’ve seen at a championship match in 15 years.
“Hopefully they’ll get behind the team now. Every team has fickle supporters at times. This might sound strange but I thought the performance was more important than the result.
“They needed to perform, express themselves and play some decent hurling. They did that and at nine points up, we were delighted. We ran out of a small bit of steam but the confidence from that will be huge.”
As he continues along the road to recovery, McGrath will soon embark on a seven-week rehabilitation programme at Waterford Regional Hospital.
For the first week I could walk five minutes and was wrecked. It’s strange, now I’m walking 30-40 minutes after seven weeks. I get tired in the afternoon and have to have a little rest, which is great!
“But I’m really starting from scratch again, to build it up. In the last two weeks, I feel a lot better and there’s colour back in my face.”
The Ken McGrath Allstar challenge takes place on June 27 at Walsh Park. Admission: €10 (U16s free of charge). Donations can also be made to any Permanent TSB – account number 23053903, sort code: 99 06 32.