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Dublin: 15°C Saturday 8 May 2021

'Seamus Coleman sent me a lovely message' - comeback for Cork's Hurley after 13 months of injury turmoil

The Cork attacker has suffered two severe hamstring injuries since the summer of 2016.

IT WAS A low-key game in familiar surroundings but the magnitude of the occasion was not lost on Brian Hurley.

Brian Hurley Brian Hurley made his comeback for his club last weekend. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He togged out for the Castlehaven junior footballers on Saturday night in Rosscarbery and was summoned into action in the finale.

The 25-year-old kicked two points from frees and while he could not prevent defeat in a West Cork championship opener against their local rivals O’Donovan Rossa, his second-half cameo ensured the game was a seismic one for him.

In June 2016 Hurley ripped his hamstrong off the bone during a Cork senior training session. Last March he suffered a recurrence of that severe injury in a club league game with Castlehaven.

Doubts about his ability to resurrect his career have swirled around his mind over the past 13 months. Getting back out onto the pitch after a long road of painstaking recovery was a milestone.

“It was massive, a real special moment,” said Hurley.

“A lot of work went into it, on and off the field. I’d to be patient and I’d a few bad days as well over the last 13 months.

“You question it all about getting out there. Would I ever make it back? The amount of work we put in was unbelievable to get the body weight down and to lose muscle mass, make the upper body lighter so the leg would be under less pressure.

“It’s not a trophy but it’s one of the biggest moments of my career. I’m very proud that myself and the medical team were able to make it back from something like that.”

Hurley showcased his attacking potential for Cork underage teams, a key figure in propelling the county to All-Ireland finals in 2010 at minor and in 2013 at U21. A pair of county senior winning runs with Castlehaven further illustrated his capabilities before a senior breakthrough arrived in 2013 with Cork.

Marc O'Se and Brian Hurley Brian Hurley in action for Cork against Kerry in the 2013 Munster football final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But the past couple of years have swerved his career of course and offered searching questions of his resolve. The prospect of playing after being plagued with injuries for 22 months did create some personal anxiety last week.

He had carefully kept a diary throughout his rehabilitation and scanning back over the information recorded of countless sessions filled him with the confidence that he was ready for action.

“I stepped out of the senior championship the week before, not because I wasn’t ready, I just didn’t want to push myself at that pace. The (junior management) contacted me then about playing a half the week after.

“I got very nervous to be honest. Not that I was worried about the hamstring but just that it was time to go. The way I looked at the whole process and the whole journey, I was like a car parked up in the garage and it was time to go then.

“You’re bound to be some bit nervous but as the week went on, I went through some sessions and the confidence went up. There’s a massive rivalry between Castlehaven and O’Donovan Rossa so it was nice to come and get a taste of that. The last time I really got that was in June 2016 against Tipperary. There’s nothing like championship. You can’t buy that.”

John Keane and Brian Hurley Brian Hurley in action for Cork against Tipperary in the 2016 Munster football semi-final. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

He’s worked ferociously hard to ensure this comeback was a success but there has been no shortage of allies. When it was difficult to see progress as he tried to coax his body back to full health, his family were a sanctuary he could always rely on.

“I wouldn’t have probably made this journey only for the parents especially, Ollie and Trish, they were with me everywhere I need to. The brothers (Shane, Stephen and Michael) were great to me as well when I needed them. My friends, my club, Castlehaven, my work Abco Kovex Packaging, like (getting) the time off there was never a sweat or things like having a automatic car, they made everything easier for me.

“I’d also like to thank the Cork county board for the support and help they’ve given me over the last couple of years.”

Hurley feels indebted to Cork team doctor Aidan Kelleher and S&C coach Adam Doyle along with the work of physios Brian O’Connell and Colin Lane, while he has also put in several trips to London.

“I was never really good at research in school or anything but I put a serious amount of effort into this to see who the best person out there was. Professor Haddad was the name that came back each time. Sean O’Brien and Iain Henderson worked with him. Paul O’Connell also went to him when he was getting his leg done.

Paul O'Connell injured with Dr Eanna Falvey Paul O'Connell suffered his injury in 2015 against France in the Rugby World Cup. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Ross Barkley did, Antonio the West Ham striker as well. So when these kind of guys are working with this surgeon, your confidence is up straight away and it’s just about putting in the work and the hard graft.

“We’d a lot of trips over and back to London to him to make sure that everything was 100% this time around. I was briefly texting Sean O’Brien as well, he just said to me that he was very good.”

Some inspiration also arrived from an unexpected source.

“Seamus Coleman sent me a lovely message saying you’re working with the best in the world. It was unbelievable to get that. I think all along when people saw I wasn’t in teams or panels that they thought I was dead and buried.

“I knew I was working hard for moments like Saturday evening. For someone of his ability and capacity to contact you out of the blue gave me a massive confidence boost. He hit the nail on the head for me about staying positive the whole time.

“It’s only people in the situation that have gone through horrific injuries like ourselves will understand, it’s mentally challenging. People don’t see the work you put in but when do you go back and get that feeling like going out onto the pitch the other day, there’s no words that can describe that buzz. He knew exactly where I was coming from.”

Seamus Coleman Irish soccer captain Seamus Coleman. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Hurley is back doing some work with the Cork footballers but is pragmatic enough to appraise where he is at. Featuring in a club junior game is the first rung he hopes to climb on the ladder.

“Coming on for 12 minutes in a junior championship game is baby steps really with my overall goals. I might be greedy and I might be looking at something too big but you have to set aims to get back to where you were or maybe better.

“From being out the last two years, I think I’ve matured massively both mentally and physically. So hopefully I can benefit myself on the field in that way.

“Look all I ever wanted was to play football and some times I thought that was gone but we knuckled down, we grafted and we got over the line last week.

“It’s going to be step by step. We’ve put in too much work to put anything at risk now by rash judgement. Everything is going to be measured and chatted through with the lads. It’ll just be over time and hopefully there’ll be no more drama thank God.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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