Paul Browne has been sidelined for Limerick's run to the All-Ireland final. James Crombie/INPHO
Watching On

'I actually thought I might go, I might pass out near the end of the game. I'd be a poor spectator anyway.'

Injury has left the Limerick midfielder in a different role for their All-Ireland hurling run.

HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP DAYS but with a different twist for Paul Browne.

In the 10th season of his existence as a Limerick senior hurler, he’s accustomed to being immersed in the heat of midfield battles.

When his cruciate snapped during a tackling drill in a training session in mid June, his 2018 playing involvement crashed to a halt.

The role of an observer has been something to adjust to during the thrilling recent wins over Kilkenny and Cork.

“I was helping out with the stats for the Kilkenny game. The last couple of minutes my hand was shaking, I couldn’t write down what I was supposed to be writing down.

“Croke Park is a different scenario so I couldn’t help out, I was watching. I was sitting with the subs and stuff, I actually thought I might go, I might pass out near the end of the game.

“I’d be a poor spectator anyway. It’s much easier to be involved and thinking about the moment. The tension, you’re like a supporter with the best seat in the house. I’m not worried about coming on, I’m not worried about the match or how it’s going.

“I’m watching the boys. You’re pucking every ball. When you’re playing you’re only hitting the balls you’re hitting. But I’m hitting every ball out on the field and it’s just not a good place to be.”

He’s a couple of weeks post operation now and is embarking on the road to recovery, detecting little signals of improvement with each passing day. There was never a temptation though for the Bruff man to cut his ties with the squad as this summer unfolded.

“I felt sorry for myself for a day or two you know but I suppose I’d a choice to make and I decided I’d better just not be sulking because I’d no place being around the boys if that was the case. I wanted to stay around with the lads so I suppose I haven’t missed a training or a match or anything.

“I wanted to be part of it. It’s my 10th season. I hadn’t experienced an All-Ireland final. It might not come around again.

Paul Browne lifts the cup Paul Browne was the victorious captain after January's Munster league final win over Clare. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“Who knows? I don’t know what’s going to happen next year or the year after with myself or with the panel. I am hanging on because I kind of knew what was coming. You get a feeling when it is like that.

“I haven’t had it before I won’t lie and I don’t know will I get it again after this year but sure look we’ll have to try and capitalise on it. I’m missing out on playing but I’ll get over that. I just want everything to go well on the 19th.”

The Limerick management have been keen to keep Browne in the group and facilitated a role for him.

“I’m trying to help as best I can. It’s amazing what you pick up when you’re not togged. You’d be watching other fellas and pick up on different things. A fella might be having a down day at training, you can have a word or a drill mightn’t go well, you could step in and say something.

“John and the team have been very accommodating to me as regards helping out and trying to utilise me as much as they can. I suppose it’s an extra pair of eyes for training and matches and people to watch out for. If I can only contribute 1% more, that’s enough for me.

“I’ve been part of everything and the lads have been very good in including me – texts after surgery, texts after it happened, inviting me up for coffees, teas, making sure the mood is good, asking me how I am at training.

“When they should be worrying about anything but me, they’re still worried about me which is a sign of a great bunch of lads. We’ve a good group, they’re nice fellas and just nice friends to have over the last couple of weeks.”

Browne could appreciate the milestone that was the quarter-final success over Kilkenny. He was present in 2012, 2014 and 2017 when Limerick’s hurling summers were cut by sides managed by Brian Cody.

Colin Fennelly and Paul Browne Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“I remember talking to a couple of the young fellas, they had no fear of Kilkenny. I’m not just throwing that line out, they don’t have a fear. It was more the older lads might have been thinking that.

“Credit to Kilkenny that day. There’s no end to them at all. You could stay bating them all day and they’ll still keep coming and coming and coming. They’re an incredible bunch of men.

“We just managed to get the breaks, and Tom Morrissey that day, the point after the goal was huge for us. And that’s the kind of fellas we have on the panel, that’s what those young fellas are well able to do. He caught the game by the scruff of the neck, it’s what you dream of doing. He did it. He dragged us though.”

Browne’s day job entails working as GAA officer in Limerick IT. He’s a past student there and has come into contact with his share of Galway hurling figures over the years. He was pleased to see them get their reward last September but those feelings are parked next Sunday.

“Joe would have been the main one I would have known through college. Cyril Donnellan and one or two more that would have gone through before.

Joe Canning and Paul Browne close in on Martin Walsh Joe Canning and Paul Browne in action together in the Fitzgibbon Cup in 2012. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“Paul Killeen as well actually, a great fella. He gave me a text after the injury. He knows exactly what I’m going through. Paul is a lovely fella, nice lad, great leader.

“I’d say he’s only biding his time to get a shot at starting again. He was obviously starting when he got hurt and stuff, so he’s coming back really strong this year so it gives me good hope!

“Just honest, nice decent fellas. Work hard, always give everything. When we were together in LIT the boys did, and it’s just nice to see them get a reward. Obviously this year is a different story!”

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