“I got a text saying ‘are you interested in coming to a trial game?’ and I said ‘sure why wouldn’t I be?’” The newly-qualified doctor wasn’t a consideration for last year’s International Rules series but not because of form: the 25-year-old was laid low after two operations to correct a bilateral hip problem. The defender was told he wasn’t meant to play again.
“I was getting progressive pain in my hip throughout the season. The year before (2012) we played Galway as well, after we lost to Kerry, and I didn’t play because I was incapable of doing it. Luckily enough, I had a good medical team around me. They referred me on to a specialist — Patrick Carton in Whitfield.
“I was never going to lie down and leave it go. I had it taken that I was not going to play again. Until I went to a league game with the Tipp boys and they kicked the s*** out of one of the teams. I saw that there was serious potential there. So I said ‘f**k it, I’m going to try everything to get back’.”
McDonald becomes emotional speaking about his return. Following in the footsteps of fellow Tipperary men Derry Foley and Declan Browne has capped off his comeback but the 25-year-old looks back on the county’s season with regret.
“I think we were disappointed by the end of it. We lost to Galway and played poor, even though Galway were the better team. But we didn’t play to our potential. We should have got to an All-Ireland quarter-final.
“It’s frustrating. Personally frustrated as well because I didn’t play well. But I’d be a very harsh critic of self-performance. But as a team in general, we’re fairly disgusted with ourselves but that’s sport. ! Ambitions are growing but I think we’re still second fiddle to a lot of teams in Munster at the moment.”
That doesn’t mean the Munster Council should have seeded this year’s competition in Cork and Kerry’s favour, though. “I don’t mind the seeding if every province did it, it’s just that they picked one out of four. We should all be treated equally. I don’t mind if Cork and Kerry are on either side because you’re either good enough or not to beat them, it doesn’t matter. But I don’t like they branded us as second-class citizens.”
Currently studying a masters in sports medicine in Trinity having finished his internship and worked in Nenagh for two months, he joined his Tipperary team-mate Colin O’Riordan at the trials but the teen starlet didn’t make the cut. It won’t affect him, says McDonald. “He’s give you a lot of motivation going with him because he just doesn’t give a f***, basically, he’s a champion. Some of the older players in Tipp, even myself, would get a lot of rejuvenated inspiration from the younger lads.”
Confirmation of McDonald’s spot on the panel also came by way of the phone but this time in form of a call from Paul Earley. “I was taken aback and it took me a few days to realise what was going on. Paul gave me a ring. I was on the way to training so I couldn’t talk too much but I was thinking about it and I was like ‘Jesus, that’s pretty good’.”
International Rules has long appealed to McDonald largely because of the physical aspect of it.
* Meanwhile, highly regarded skills acquisition coach Ed Coughlan has joined the Dublin hurlers' backroom team. The CIT lecturer confirmed his appointment on his LinkedIn page yesterday. Coughlan, part of James Horan's management team with the Mayo footballers from 2010 until Horan stepped down, will work as a skills coach with Ger Cunningham.