Hurling hands: No. 1 Ken McGrath - 'My left index finger won’t bend all the way down'

In the first of a Championship series, hurlers chat about their hands and the injuries sustained in the service of club and county. First up is Waterford legend, Ken McGrath.

"On my right hand, I broke my thumb twice and the index finger.

"On the left, I broke that thumb twice and the index finger, and my wrist.

"I broke the little finger on my left hand in a county final, but Jim Greene straightened it for the Munster club - we were playing Patrickswell. Look at the state of it now!

"I broke my right thumb three years in a row - just catching the ball, nothing malicious.

"I knew every time. You’d know because there’s a different feel to it. There’s no power in the finger or the thumb. The thumbs went on the May Bank Holiday each time, so you’re in a race for the championship then every time.

"The nails are bad too. A bang on the nail and then you need to use the pin... I got a slap across the top of the thumb one time - against Ahane in the Munster club championship - and the blood got under the nail and it swelled up.

"It was throbbing. We beat Ahane the same day and went out for a drink but it was throbbing for the night, so I got someone to heat a pin and stick it into the nail to relieve the pressure. Thinking about it you’d be saying ‘no way’ but you can’t feel it - it jabs in and straightaway the pain is gone because the pressure of the blood is gone. You don’t want to go in too far! The thought of it is worse than anything.

"One of the times I broke my right thumb was going in to hook someone - I went in too far and he caught my thumb. It was wired and there’s a scar where the wire was taken out, but it could have been worse. A trainee doctor tried to pull out the wire in the hospital and I nearly fainted.

"My left index finger won’t bend all the way down - the kids at home would try to force it sometimes - but I never thought of wearing a glove. Will I be controversial? I never liked fellas wearing gloves, the look of it is something I don't like. I wore a glove for one game after breaking a finger but I threw it away after a minute, I couldn’t stick it.

"Anyone who breaks a finger will know the ball, you have to squeeze a ball to build the strength back up in your hand again because it’s wasted away after being in plaster for a few weeks. It takes a while to get the strength and the confidence back in it.

"My fingers get cold, but I don’t get any pain or discomfort, really, from them. Other players? Eoin Kelly from Tipperary - great hands, great wrists. Tommy Dunne the same, just a flick from out on the wing and bang, over the bar. Patrick Horgan, Joe Canning, Seamus Callanan. Go back further, Tony O’Sullivan from Cork. On our team, Paul Flynn had some hands."

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