You are viewing the content for Thursday 10 January 2013

Munster icon upbeat as future looks brighter

It will be mid-February when Paul O’Connell returns to the gym, another three or four weeks after that when he begins running again, but the Munster and Ireland lock will not be moaning and groaning along the road back to full fitness.

Just deciding to go under the knife on December 31 to correct a bulging disc in his lower back has given O’Connell all the confidence he needs to get through any dark days that may lie ahead.

"It’s frustrating. It’s probably been the most enjoyable time to play when I have been playing," the 33-year-old said yesterday in Limerick. "I’ve enjoyed it more than ever but not to be playing is very frustrating.

"But it is part and parcel of it. There’s plenty of guys who have gone through what I’ve gone through and have been very positive, so you feel bad if you get down about yourself.

"Felix Jones, who’s had repeated injuries, keeps coming back stronger than ever and rehabs with incredible diligence. So there’s no point in complaining. You just get on with it, and that’s how I feel.

"There’s light at the end of the tunnel now. The surgeon is very happy, the medical team are very happy with it so I’m just looking forward to getting back playing."

The low point has been and gone, said O’Connell, who added that he has been inundated with tales of every back ailment imaginable and every treatment too, including the use of magnets — "I actually did," he said with a laugh. "I took them off after a day, I didn’t know what I was doing.

"From when we decided to get the operation done, I felt great. Probably the last two weeks before that in and around Christmas were tough, because I was plateauing, all the big games were being played, you miss the big interprovincial games over Christmas, the Heineken Cup games, missed the big Argentina game.

"It’s okay to do that when you’ve an injury that’s getting better and you can see light at the end of the tunnel, so those last two weeks, when we were heading that way was very frustrating. But literally once we decided to do it, I felt better straight away."

Electing to have surgery was a "fairly logical decision", O’Connell said, once it became clear that conservative management of the problem was not a long-term solution. But the former Lions captain was convinced he would play again.

"When you have a back injury you do have doubts. I was very happy with what the surgeon thought about it. Even when he saw it two or three months ago, he thought it was fairly small and not a big issue.

"It’s always a big deal when you get a back operation but the medical staff have been very happy with how it went and don’t think playing again will be an issue. I’ll certainly be back, when that will be I’m not sure.

"It will probably be between 12 and 16 weeks, so we’ll see."