Warming Dublin to the task

KIERAN O’REILLY doesn’t sport the sort of tan you might expect for someone just back in Dublin after a marathon trip that lasted 54 days and took in the exotic destinations of Dubai, Bangladesh and India.

As physiotherapist to the Irish cricket team at the World Cup, there wasn’t exactly much space in the daily diary for lying by the pool or exploring the mysterious sub-continent.

A few quick jaunts around Calcutta and Bangalore aside, it was all business.

“The English team, as an example, had five nights at home from November to the time they went out of the World Cup,” says O’Reilly.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges you have on tour, trying to keep guys fresh and make sure there are no major dramas as well.

“The lads had rooms to themselves which was a big help in giving people space. One of the things I remarked on is that even though we were gone for over seven weeks, there were no major dramas, which indicates what a close-knit team the Irish lads are.”

No-one in the Irish camp complained about the workload. In any case, the itinerary was sprinkled with the odd memorable blowout, most notably when Kevin O’Brien’s 113 runs spearheaded Ireland’s record chase of 327 against England.

No-one expected such a dramatic turn of events, not least the English whose three crates of celebratory beer stationed in their dressing room were requisitioned by the victors who partied until the early hours of the following morning back at the hotel both sides shared.

In among them was O’Reilly, a St Vincent’s club man from a traditional GAA family whose only exposure to cricket growing up was a granddad who used to pass the odd summer’s day tuned to the Test Match Special on the BBC.

All that changed when he studied physiotherapy in Manchester and a friend got him in the door at Lancashire Cricket Club at a time when household names like Andrew Flintoff, Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and Australia’s Andrew Symmonds were about.

Another acquaintance introduced him to Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Irish cricket, and he now finds himself as physio for all the country’s representative sides.

So, then, he must know what silly mid on is. Right? “I pretend to,” he laughs. “When the lads clap, I clap. Ah no, I’m getting there. The biggest thing for me is working out what is going on with the bowlers when they bowl and the batters when they bat. I have spent a lot of time studying video footage of them. It’s about getting a better understanding of the sport. When you have played it, you have a better understanding of the stresses on the body so I needed to do a bit of education myself to understand what was happening.”

Other jobs in recent years, apart from his own Absolute Physiotherapy clinic, have included a two-year stint with Ross County in Scotland, a spell with Leinster rugby and the role which will occupy his thoughts more than most this week — the Dubs.

Pat Gilroy knew O’Reilly from Vincent’s where they played together and the physio’s return from the UK coincided with his old clubmate succeeding Paul Caffrey at the county helm. On Sunday, they’ll both be on the Croke Park sideline for the league final.

“I stood on the Hill and would have gone to the games,” says O’Reilly. “I played intermediate mostly but I played with and against some of these fellas. I played for a while under Kevin Heffernan and on the same team as Mossy (Quinn) and Pat Gilroy, so it is a great job. Having worked in professional sport, it gives me a great opportunity to try and bring some of those things into the Dublin setup.

“It has always been an elite sport but players wearing Dublin jerseys years ago weren’t necessarily elite athletes. They are now.”

If there is a difference between the physical conditioning and effort put in by Gaelic footballers and their professional colleagues in other sports, then O’Reilly hasn’t been able to detect it. His admiration for Gilroy’s players is unfettered.

O’Reilly has seen them drive bleary-eyed into DCU’s St Claire’s complex for 6.30am training sessions in the depths of winter and he is one of those men in bibs seen running onto the field of play to attend to those stricken by injury.

Like a referee, a day where O’Reilly isn’t noticed goes down as a good day but those are few and far between. Work on match day begins hours prior to a game and ends hours afterwards. Sometimes the occasion completely passes him by.

“There was one of the games this year when I didn’t even know if we had won, lost or drawn because I was treating a fella at the end. You don’t get to enjoy it as such and its not the best seat in the house because you have Pat Gilroy standing in front of you!

“But it’s great to be involved. They are a great bunch of guys and the atmosphere around match day with Dublin is always a little bit special.”

Picture: Ireland's Kieran O'Reilly straps up Andre Botha at training ahead of their 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup match against the West Indies in Mohali, India, on March 11. Picture: SPORTSFILE

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