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Dublin: 12°C Monday 19 October 2020

From the heartbreak of being told he may never hurl again to All-Ireland club glory in Croke Park

The Kilkenny forward retired in 2016 but was back celebrating recently.

Carrickshock players and supporters celebrate with the cup Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

SEPTEMBER 2015 APPEARED to be Richie Power’s last stand in Croke Park.

It was a winning finale with Kilkenny but not a dazzling one on a personal level.

Richie Power celebrates Richie Power after Kilkenny's 2015 All-Ireland final victory. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Power came on as a late substitute in that success over Galway, yet his influence was not as pronounced as the goal-scoring blitz he unleashed with four strikes in the last three games of the 2014 campaign.

The hope was to continue and put his injury nightmare behind him.

But as that winter progressed, the realisation dawned that his knee was not rehabilitating properly.

In January last year he accepted defeat in his fight to remain as an inter-county hurler, bringing a glittering inter-county career to a close.

At 30 years old, he was bowing out at an age when he should have had more to give. A knee injury had wrecked recent seasons for Power and even playing again for his club Carrickshock was in doubt.

And yet nine days ago, he stood in Croke Park basking in the glow of another All-Ireland win.

Carrickshock players celebrate at the final whistle

Power had done more than most to secure the spoils in that All-Ireland , leading the line at centre-forward and weighing in with 0-6, five of those from open play.

Winning All-Ireland medals is nothing new for Power. He picked up eight for the Kilkenny senior side, two apiece for the U21 and minor Cats teams, along with a pair for the schools powerhouse that is St Kieran’s.

But this latest triumph had a deeper significance, wearing the green and gold of Carrickshock.

“It exceeds everything that I would have done beforehand,” says Power.

“That’s not saying any of the other All-Irelands are less special but just to do it with Carrickshock with brothers and family involved, and an extra bit of satisfaction myself given I was told that I probably wouldn’t hurl again.

“That satisfaction at succeeding was just unbelievable.”

The satisfaction stemmed from the wars that had been waged on two fronts to reach that point.

There were the tough times the club had endured and the struggles Power had face.

The discussion about Carrickshock in Kilkenny hurling circles in recent years had revolved around the question of when they would manage to stand on the podium as senior champions.

They lost the final in 2010 by three points, the final in 2013 by two points and contested the last four stage in 2014. But in 2015 they were cursed by injuries, unable to break a damaging cycle of defeats and it all concluded with them falling through the trapdoor.

Richie Power and Brian Hogan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Neal Prendergast with Richie Power

For a club with a cast of star hurlers, it was a jolt to the system. The core of their team – Dalton, Tennyson, Rice and the Power brothers – were all All-Ireland senior winners but those feats could not save them from relegation.

“We wallowed in it for a couple of months,” admits Power.

“It’s a great story from our point of view to tell now. But at the time it was huge disappointment being relegated.

“Getting so close to winning a senior final and finding yourself relegated and back playing intermediate, shows how fickle sport can be.

“All the players took it bad and the management took it bad. My own Dad was involved and Davy Franks. It hit everyone in the club hard.”

Slowly they picked themselves up and in 2016, Carrickshock managed to acquire the winning habit again. A Kilkenny semi-final against Tullaroan and a Leinster final against Celbridge were tight and tense affairs, but they showed resolve and enjoyed good fortune to engineer victories.

When it came to the All-Ireland series, Carrickshock hit full speed. It was the culmination of their team recovery and Power’s own comeback journey coincided with it.

Richard Power Richie Power in action for Carrickshock. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“At end of 2015 I was being told I might never hurl again and that you wouldn’t get a chance to play with the club. That was a real heartbreaking moment for me.

“I put the head down and convinced myself I’d give it a try and give myself that bit of time to recover after the operation that I had. Thankfully it worked out for me.

“I remember the first one or two nights below in Thomastown and I did the running. It was a real shock to the system.

“I try to train as much as I can on the field but there are just nights I can’t get the soreness and the pain out of the knee. It just means I’ve to go into the gym and do a bit on the bike and a bit of rehab.”

Power’s pre-match routine starts well before throw-in. He needs to get at least 40 minutes gym work done beforehand to get his knee in working order.

“Luckily enough I had those facilities in the likes of Portlaoise for the All-Ireland semi-final. Then we’d a big Carrickshock man in the St Judes club in Dublin that allowed us to use their facilities on Saturday before the All-Ireland final as well.

“I’d access to a bike and a gym, as without it I just wouldn’t be able to play. It’s about getting the leg and the muscles around the knee activated before I take to the field. Then I get the heavy strapping on. It got me through it.”

That pain and persistence all paid off in quite spectacular style. Power produced a series of top-drawer points to help propel Carrickshock into the winners enclosure.

“Everything about it was surreal. It was really typified when John Dalton stood up and said he just wanted to hurl in Croke Park with his club.

“To have John and Jamie (his brothers) there, first cousins (Shane and John) there as well playing, and just pretty much everyone that you’ve grown up with.

“After the match we got a nice family photo with Mam and Dad, and Rory (his son) as well. Things like that will forever live long in the memory.”

There’s a 2017 Kilkenny senior campaign coming down the tracks for Carrickshock. Right now Power is unsure will he be involved. He’s going to take time and see will his knee be able for the rigours of the top-level club game on Noreside.

“What that means going forward, I just don’t know as of yet.

“I’m going to take a bit of time off now and probably won’t feature in the first couple of rounds of the league and championship.

“Just give myself a chance and maybe look into the couple of procedures that might be able to help me.

“But right now it’s a great time for the club. To see grown men from Carrickshock with tears in their eyes, it was just phenomenal really.”

Back in 2002, Power played in his first All-Ireland final in Croke Park. He bagged 0-7 in that minor triumph for Kilkenny, club mates John Tennyson and Michael Rice alongside him.

Richie Power and David Kennedy 8/9/2002 DIGITAL Source: INPHO

What ensued after that was a county career packed with shining moments.

And even with the Kilkenny days concluded, 15 years on he’s still experiencing hurling highlights.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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