Hurling Hands: Martin Storey - 'They thought I might lose the finger, it was dangling off by the skin'

"He fixed it but it reopened again in the county final, and I could see the screws in the open wound."
Hurling Hands: Martin Storey - 'They thought I might lose the finger, it was dangling off by the skin'
They had to be Randles hurleys, and had to be heavy, says Martin Storey. Photo: INPHO
They had to be Randles hurleys, and had to be heavy, says Martin Storey. Photo: INPHO

My hands would have had a few breaks over the years. I got a particuarly bad one playing junior for Wexford in 1985.

I had surgery and it took seven or eight screws to put it back together: for a while they thought I might lose the finger altogether, it was dangling off by the skin.

It was the middle finger on my left hand, my catching hand. We got to the All-Ireland final in 1985 in junior, and we played the Kilkenny U21s in a challenge to get ready for the final.

I slipped in behind the centre-back and centre-forward at one stage for the ball, but I didn’t realise my own man had followed me in. I put up my hand with no hurley to protect it, and when the ball landed my man pulled and sent it about 20 yards back down the field.

I looked at my hand and could see only three fingers - the fourth was dangling. I got the surgery and the doctor said afterwards to me that he would have had to consider amputating it if it couldn’t be fixed.

It wasn’t that hard to come back from - I was only 20, 21, and I was club intermediate captain, delighted with myself, so I was mad to get back playing.

I went back playing with the club in the quarter-final of the county intermediate championship, and I got into trouble over that. I reopened the cut and had to go back to hospital on the Monday: the doctor ate the head off me.

Then he said, ‘I must have done a great job because it held up’. He fixed it but it reopened again in the county final, and I could see the screws in the open wound.

Martin Storey's hurling hands.
Martin Storey's hurling hands.

Dr Mick O’Connell, Lord have mercy on him, fixed me up again - he fixed me up a few times over the years, in fairness - he was an orthopaedic surgeon in Kilkenny and later on in Wexford General Hospital.

I broke my little finger in 1996 against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final, but I couldn’t say a word with the All-Ireland final coming up: it used to be a bit sore if a ball hit it, and it’s a bit crooked now, but I’d have broken most of the fingers over the years.

My elbows would be worse, actually - I had surgery on the elbows a couple of times because I got a lot of belts there.

I always wanted it badly. My godfather was Jimmy Prendergast, who played corner-back for Wexford in the All-Ireland finals against Cork in the mid-seventies, and he brought me to the training sessions Wexford did for those games in 1976 and 1977. That’s what hooked me and made me want to go to Croke Park to hurl.

When it came to picking out my hurleys I was an absolute nightmare. I had to have five or six sticks the exact same - same weight, same grips, an inch-and-a-quarter thick bás. They had to be Randles hurleys, and had to be heavy.

My thinking with a heavy hurley was that as a forward, if you gave a flick of the wrists you’d send the ball sixty yards without losing your accuracy. But if you were using a light stick you had to try to hit it harder, and the chances of an error from forcing it were higher as a result. That’s not scientific, that’s just my feeling.

For hands, I’d have to go for our man George O’Connor. He didn’t give a damn one way or the other how the ball came to him, who was behind him or who was in front of him - he just saw the ball and caught it, which is why his hands got injured so often. Liam Dunne was some skilful hurler as well as being tough.

Martin Storey duelling with Offaly's Brian Whelahan. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Martin Storey duelling with Offaly's Brian Whelahan. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Silken skills when the ball hit the ground? When I was marking Brian Whelehan I had a simple rule for myself - to get the ball before it hit the ground, because when it did he’d have it popped up and swept away.

And pure silken skills - another Offaly man. John Troy would make the ball talk, pure and simple.

In the modern game, Tony Kelly of Clare is someone I’d have great time for - he always impresses me. He’s not an especially big man but he has everything that a player needs. He’s Mr Consistent, day in day out, and if he has a bad day at all then Clare tend to have a bad day. If there were a transfer market he’d be one of the first lads I’d be after.

Interview: Michael Moynihan

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