IT WAS IN Croke Park last August when he was struck down. It was a miserable day for Limerick hurling as they bowed out of the All-Ireland semi-final with a limp display but Seamus Hickey had personal anguish to endure.
Tearing his cruciate ligament during the opening period meant he faced a winter of physical rehabilitation coupled with soothing the wounds of defat.
Fast forward eight months and it was in the North Cork town of Charleville where he made his comeback during a challenge between Cork and Limerick in late April.
“I was as raw as a steak,” laughs Hickey, when recalling that game. “It was bad now.
“I came on half-forward. And TJ (Ryan) literally sent me on and told me to run around sniffing for ball. It was funny, it was more of an awakening. I was actually in a good place physically and that gave me a good eye-opener as to how much work I had to do, hurling-wise.”
He put in the hard yards and come early June, Hickey was to the forefront for Limerick on championship Sunday.
A thrilling victory over Tipperary was sealed when the Murroe-Boher man launched over a late point. Not that it’s his favorite score in a Limerick jersey.
“I scored a point against Waterford in 2007 that I’m very proud of. I didn’t know much about it (against Tipperary). I couldn’t understand why I had that much space. They only had eyes for up the field because that’s where they needed to go.
“The most satisfying thing about that was just lining out on the day. Anything that happened after that was a bonus. The confidence that TJ has in me, he gave me every possible chance to prove myself. It was up to me then after that. I was fit enough and well enough to hurl after that.”
Tomorrow is the next stage in Limerick’s adventure. Páirc Uí Chaoimh is not a ground he’s acquainted with too much. The 2005 minor final he played there was a chastening experience.
“Pa Cronin was on that Cork team and Patrick Horgan. I was on Pa Cronin. It was a game that didn’t go well for us, we lost by I think it was nine points in the end.
“We came back after it and we got into the final against Galway after beating Dublin in the semi. It was one of our best years as minors. Richie McCarthy, Tom Condon, Gavin O’Mahony, James Ryan, myself, Micháel Ryan – all came from that minor team.”
When Limerick last played a senior championship tie there, it was in 2010 and Hickey watched on from a bar in Boston. It was a difficult year of hurling conflict for the county.
“All things being equal, it was a year of my life that I got to experience something I would never have experienced,” reflects Hickey. “I got a chance to do something I would never have got to do. That’s the way I look at it.”
Alan Cadogan will be the Cork forward he will most likely be tasked with marking.
“I know enough about him, even just watching the games. I’m the same as anybody else, when I’m not playing I’m watching games. I’m a fan of it. Very, very impressive corner-forward.
“He has space as well to exploit it. A fearless young lad who has come on and doesn’t give a flying toss if he misses the first three balls, he’ll probably bury the fourth. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen of him, definitely.”
And Hickey is pleased to see another Cork forward recovered from injury.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Paudie O’Sullivan and what he’s been through. That’s a tough break.
“Huge amount of respect for a guy like that who has worked incredibly hard and managed to make it back. I was personally delighted to see him get there. At the end of the day, we’re a fraternity of hurlers.”
A fraternity of hurlers but tomorrow they are opponents. Hickey has been operating in the belly of the beast of late. He started a new job in Stryker in Carrigtwohill in East Cork after the Tipperary game, working as a design engineer for surgical cutting implements. He’s kept the head down in advance of the game, quietly plotting and hoping for glory.