Brian Hurley runs upstairs these days, never walks. Why? Probably just because he can but even he isn’t fully sure. After the second surgery on the badly damaged hamstring in his left leg, in 2017, he wondered if he’d ever run up a flight of stairs again.
“It’s the weirdest thing ever,” said Hurley of the habit. “Don’t ask me why, I just want to get up them as fast as I can do it. It is so weird.”
Truth be told, Hurley’s journey back to the front line of the Cork football team from career threatening leg injuries in 2016 and 2017 has been as much a mental and emotional one as a physical one.
It’s well documented how he ripped four inches of his hamstring clean off the bone in the summer of 2016, how he suffered a recurrence the following spring and how the medical advice he received at that point was to pack it in. At 24.
It’s less documented what sort of a toll it all took on the Castlehaven man who nods when you ask if his mind inevitably went to some pretty dark places. There was that moment, for instance, after the second injury when he was advised to pack it all in.
“A guy telling you that, that’s never kicked a football before and doesn’t understand what it means to you,” said Hurley. “It was easy for him to say it but trying to actually take it in, I actually don’t know what he said to me afterwards, I still remember that kind of fog. I’m not blowing it up to be....look, it was one of the toughest things I’ve ever heard to be honest with you.”
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Then there was the eight-week period when he was essentially on one leg after the second surgery, performed by a specialist in London who agreed to take it on.
“It woke me up massively, the experience, I remember being at home on the couch in a brace, I was like a robot, honest to God,” he recalled. “It (the leg) was 90 degrees behind me so I couldn’t move it. I’d fellas dropping ice to my door, offering to collect me and take me out of the house.”
Or all the times he spent in hospitals, clinics and medical centres around people with more serious problems.
“Mine was a temporary injury. I met people who were a lot worse off, paralysed and what not. I have met them all. It opens your eyes to how lucky you are and it makes you a much more grateful person for what you have.
Through perseverance - Hurley admits he was never particularly bookish but threw himself headlong into an investigation of the inner workings of the hamstring - and true grit, here he is, a Cork footballer again.
His ‘new’ hamstring feels like it’s taut all the time, and he feels older generally than his 27 years, but he kicked three points against Dublin at Croke Park last July. For an hour Cork kept pace with the very best of them all that day. Hurley was living again..
His rehabilitation complete, it’s about making up for lost time now, for Hurley and indeed Cork. The team and the supporters appeared to suffer almost in tandem with Hurley in recent seasons as form and fortunes nosedived, leading to Cork’s relegation to Division 3 of the League last spring
“You were trying to do rehab and there was so much negativity around, fellas were saying, ‘Why would you be bothered? Wouldn’t you just go away and do your own thing? And it would have been very easy to say, ‘Yeah, you know what, you’re right’. But I love football, I love Cork, no matter if they are going good or bad. I will still try to push it on and hopefully next year it can get more positive and more positive again”
UPMC, which offers trusted, high-quality health services at UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford and other facilities in Ireland, is the new official healthcare partner of the GAA/GPA and will work to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they play.