Croatia calling as Kilkenny's Richie Power aims to shrug off knee woes

It’s two summers since Richie Power won the last of his eight All-Irelands with Kilkenny. Four months have fallen from the calendar since he claimed that All-Ireland Intermediate medal with Carrickshock, but the din and roar of a Croke Park chorus is still ringing in his ears.
Croatia calling as Kilkenny's Richie Power aims to shrug off knee woes

We mean that literally.

A welter of Cumann na mBunscoil finals are being played out on the pitch below as he chats away at a Bord Gais gig in the Cusack Stand, the screams of supporters and clash of ash providing a fitting soundtrack for a man who helped the Cats sing here so often.

His remaining sporting ambitions are less grand.

All being well, he’d love to stretch another year or two out of it with the club and shave another three points off a golf handicap that has already dipped from 12 to the verge of eight.

More than anything, though, he’d just love to puck the sliotar around with his young fella Rory without feeling any pain in his knee.

Power’s inter-county career came to an end with his official retirement in January of last year at the age of 29 due to a litany of problems with the cruciate ligaments in his left joint.

Six operations couldn’t fix it and he wasn’t having a seventh so down the curtain came.

Power had been to the Sports Clinic in Santry and visiting medics with the Australian International Rules were just some of the other experts whose opinions he sought. Nothing. Not until he spoke to a man called David Byrne who used to hurl with Kilkenny in the ‘90s.

Byrne works for an American company with links to a hospital in Croatia where they conduct the sort of pioneering stem cell treatment that a number of NFL players have used with success.

Power has done some research and the feedback has been good.

He’ll fly to Zagreb in the next fortnight, the flights via Amsterdam costing him maybe twice as much as the €300 he has been quoted for the consultation.

It’s too early in this revolutionary procedure’s life span for anyone to say it definitively works but no-one is saying it doesn’t.

Worth a shot, then.

“It’s not to get back playing. It’s just to get a quality of life with my own knee. If I don’t get anything done in Croatia and I decide to go back playing for another year or two (with the club) and struggle through like I did then I’m probably looking at a knee replacement by the time I’m 40.

“I’m only 31 at the moment so it is not something I want to face into at such a young age. It is just to try and give me an extra 15 — 20 years with my own knee.

“If they can do that, then great. It will be well worth it. If not I need to make a decision and maybe end up hanging up the boots altogether.”

If they think they can help he’ll be back in Zagreb for the procedure later in the year.

Maybe then he’ll get to wake up on those cold winter mornings without the knee giving him grief.

Or step out of the Jeep after a day on the road and not feel the leg stiffen like a plank.

“It’s regenerating the cartilage in the left knee. They take some good cartilage from the right knee, bring it into the lab and more or less clone it.

“Then they inject it back into your left knee and you are hoping then that the blood will run to it and regenerate there.

“By all accounts, a lot of the NFL players use it in America to get back and, from what I gather, you’re not looking at a huge period of time out.

“You have two or three months to help it and they bring you back over after three months for a check-up and see if it’s working.”

He laughs and shakes the head when asked if Brian Cody got in touch after he hit six points against Galway’s Ahascragh-Fohenagh in February.

Fact is he hasn’t played for the club since and Liam MacCarthy isn’t the focus anymore anyway.

This all about Richie, young Rory and life beyond hurling.

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