'I was told I wouldn't play at this level again' - Cork forward's comeback from injury hell

Cork’s Brian Hurley says his struggles with hamstring injuries are minor compared to what others have suffered.

CORK FOOTBALLER BRIAN Hurley always feels compelled to run up flights of stairs these days.

upmc-gaagpa-launch Cork forward Brian Hurley. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

It’s a liberty he never thought he would be without. That was until he encountered some injury trouble with his hamstrings that required two major operations.

The first serious incident took place in 2016 when the Castlehaven forward ripped his hamstring off the bone while training with Cork. He was sidelined once again with a recurrence of the injury the following year while on club duty in a league game.

The procedures and accompanying rehab brought major challenges for him. Getting out of bed was a struggle as was the normally simple task of brushing his teeth. Trying to get up the stairs was an equally laborious job for Hurley, who at one stage was told he would never play football at the top level again. 

So when he finally reached the end of his recovery period, his first instinct was to savour those banal everyday rituals.

“When I went home, I was mad to brush my teeth – don’t ask me why,” Hurley says, smiling as he reflects on his comeback from injury hell.

“I was inside in hospital for two days and brushed my teeth, I went to put my head underneath the tap but I couldn’t, I was caught, my leg was in a brace and was catching me. I was shocked. We don’t know how lucky we are.

I was 10 minutes trying to get up the stairs, it’d take me two seconds normally. It’s a weird thing now, I don’t walk up the stairs anymore, I run up them. I don’t know why – I guess it’s because I can. It’s weird.

“Getting out of bed was a nightmare. I’m not being all sad, I’m just being straight up with you, we don’t know how lucky we are.”

The Cork footballers were relegated to Division 3 football for the first time in their history earlier this year.

Hurley scored two goals as the Rebels came away with a one-point against Armagh in the final round of the competition, but it wasn’t enough to preserve their Division 2 status.

ian-maguire-competes-for-a-late-ball-into-the-box Cork lost out narrowly to Kerry in the provincial decider. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Cork’s future looked bleak as the championship portion of the season approached, but Ronan McCarthy’s side rallied to play out a thrilling Munster decider against Kerry.

Despite failing to win any of their Super 8s fixtures, Cork trailed Dublin by just three points coming into the final 10 minutes of their clash before the eventual five-in-a-row champions fired in three late goals.

Hurley played his part in that encouraging display, and yet, he was previously advised that he would not be able to perform at this level again.

“To get back to where I didn’t think I’d get back to, it’s a massive confidence boost.

You know you can push yourself as hard as you can because the body can allow you do it. Credit must go to the medical team. I was told that I wouldn’t play at this level again. We had to go further afield because I wouldn’t be operated on in Ireland.

“So I went to England and got the operation done and I suppose the rest is history. I suppose, look, it’s not just me, there’s loads of other fellas who have been on to me and have had the same operation and are back playing thankfully. So it’s good to see the resources that are out there.

“It’s just the willingness of getting the right medical team and pushing in the right direction and it makes the work a lot easier.”

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Hurley has certainly endured a lot of pain in recent years as he battled to keep his inter-county career alive.

He concedes that there were “dark days” on the long grinding road to recovery, but stresses that he was surrounded by a solid network of family and friends who supported him through it.

And he never lost sight of where his problems truly ranked when compared with the misfortune of others.

It just opened up my eyes. Without getting too depressed about it, I met a lot of people in worse situations, wheelchair, leg losses; you look at me and it’s only temporary. I said, ‘This is only a small thing’.

“I just looked at it that way, kept doing it that way and just built a very good support team around me. It was always positive, no matter if I was having a shit day or whatever it was, they always put me back on track. It wasn’t all rosy – there were a lot of dark days and good days.

“It definitely made me a better person.

Brian Hurley was speaking at the announcement of UPMC as Official Healthcare Partner to the GAA/GPA. UPMC will work with the GAA/GPA to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they play.

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