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'It puts a lot of things in perspective' - recovery of defender from spinal injury a boost for Nemo

Cian McWhinney suffered a spinal injury in last year’s Cork county final replay.

NEMO RANGERS TOASTED Cork and Munster final victories at the close of their 2017 campaign while the prospect of an All-Ireland semi-final has left them bristling with enthusiasm at the opening of the 2018 season.

But amidst that wave of successes, their players have retained a strong sense of perspective. They began last October’s county final replay with a firm focus on defeating St Finbarr’s yet the sight of team-mate Cian McWhinney lying prone on the Páirc Uí Chaoimh turf after a few minutes was a jolt to the team.

Cian McWhinny receives medical attention Cian McWhinney receives treatment during Nemo Rangers county final replay win over St Finbarr's. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

An accidental collision resulted in the defender suffering a spinal injury. Barry O’Driscoll was the team-mate nearest to him at the time.

“It actually happened right by me,” recalls O’Driscoll.

“I went over and looked down at him and he was kind of lying awkwardly and I just kind of went, ‘Are you alright?’. He just said straight out, ‘I can’t feel my legs’.

“It kind of washed over me. I didn’t think of the seriousness of it and I asked him was he sure. He said yeah and then I started motioning to people to come on and he didn’t move.

“And then the way he was lying made a lot more sense because he couldn’t actually move himself. He told me a few weeks later when we were talking about it, he thought his arm was up in the air and his arm was actually under him. He just couldn’t feel anything.

“(It was) very scary. When you’re watching him get taken away in an ambulance, we’d to play another 50 minutes of a game there. It puts a lot of things in perspective. His mom and his girlfriend were around and you could see them following the St John’s (ambulance) down the tunnel.”

Nemo Rangers ended up winning the match but the real victory came when news filtered through to their dressing-room that McWhinney had a breakthrough in hospital.

Colin O’Brien and Kevin O’Donovan celebrates after the game Nemo Rangers players celebrate their Cork county senior final replay victory over St Finbarr's. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We got a call I’d say 20 minutes after the game that he’d started getting movement back already,” says O’Driscoll.

“And he actually came down to the club that night for a half hour which was brilliant to see him.

“I don’t know should he have because he was walking very gingerly but it was brilliant to see him and just to know that he was back up on his feet because you just don’t know how those things are going to turn out.”

A couple of days later McWhinney underwent an MRI scan and that revealed a spinal cord contusioon up around C3 and C4.

Ahead of next Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final, the news of his continued recovery and his presence at games building up to the clash with Slaughtneil is a welcome development for the Nemo Rangers camp.

Slaughtneil celebrate with the trophy Last year's Ulster club champions Slaughtneil take on Nemo Rangers next Saturday. Source: Jonathan Porter/INPHO

“We played Mallow last Friday week and he was at it,” says O’Driscoll.

“I think, I could be wrong, but he’s been doing classes for his dexterity and physio and rehab.

“He’s doing quite well, I think he returned to work this week or last even. So he’s well down the road and making a full recovery which is brilliant.

“In regards to him playing, I don’t think that’s a decision he’s made or will be making for another while. But in regards to his recovery, he’s doing brilliantly and he’s almost there.”

Not that the 25-year-old is keen to become a distraction from the bid to book a place in the St Patrick’s Day decider.

“He’s a very low key guy,” outlines O’Driscoll.

“He wouldn’t be looking for people to put the arm around him. He’s about the team and that. He’s just getting on with it.

“He couldn’t be less looking for attention. He’s just not one of those guys. Just like the way he plays, he goes about his business quietly and that’s it and it’s just great that he’s actually making the recovery.”

For Nemo Rangers the chance to end a decade wait for an All-Ireland club final appearance is something they are determined to seize.

They have endured a long bout of inactivity but the experienced of taking out the reigning kingpins Dr Crokes in that Munster final should stand to them.

Micheal Burns with Barry O’Driscoll Barry O'Driscoll in action for Nemo Rangers against Dr Crokes in last November's Munster final. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It was something in the lead-up to the (Dr Crokes) game, people would speak about that,” admits O’Driscoll.

“Crokes are who they are, but that’s fine. But then it boils down to ‘you’re just playing Crokes’, and we’ve played them a few times. So, it boils down to that game. You want to beat them, and whatever they’ve done, it’s grand. They still have to prove it against you on the day.

“We were happy with it, because it was the most consistent we would have played in the year, and we were lacking that at times. It was the most consistent we were all year, and that’s what we’ve been looking to get that out of it.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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