“A nine-month recovery turned into a 15-month recovery pretty quickly,” smiles Peter Crowley.
Sitting at a small table in the Laune Rangers clubhouse, the Kerry defender is recounting his longer than expected journey back from a torn cruciate and dislocated knee.
Crowley suffered the season-ending injury while on club duty with Laune Rangers in a relegation play-off in April 2019. Surgery followed in the weeks after before the arduous nine months of necessary rehab.
Fast forward to mid-March of this year and Crowley was match ready, was gung-ho for road. But the onset of a global pandemic meant there was no road for him to travel, well not beyond his two kilometre radius anyway.
“The plan was to see some game-time during one of Kerry's last two national league games, against Monaghan and Donegal, and then head into the club championship in April, but that all went by the wayside,” recalls the 30-year old.
Football took a firm backseat for the remainder of spring and on into early summer.
A qualified pharmacist, Peter and his father, Joe, run Mulvihill’s Pharmacy in Killorglin. And as the daily number of confirmed cases began to rise from single digits into the teens, twenties, thirties and so on, customers into the pharmacy were “understandably panicked”.
For Crowley, he remembers clearly the night in early March when the seriousness of the impending public health crisis hit home.
“I watch a good bit of basketball. I couldn't sleep one night so I took to watching Denver play [Dallas]. It was the night they called off the Utah-Oklahoma City Thunder game [because a player tested positive]. That was also the night Trump began closing down their borders. I was supposed to be off the next day and I was like, there is no way I am off.
“The first two months were just mad. Everyone was learning and every day was different. The nature of pharmacy is pretty personal. You are taking people aside, dealing with personal matters. You can often be very close to someone from talking to them, and it was small things like that had to change. It was a lot more distant.
“We have settled into a new rhythm now. The staff have been incredible. They were willing to put in extra shifts without any complaints. Our customers were considerate, put us under no pressure and were really organised.”
Falling numbers enabled pitches to reopen in late June, with games activity resuming in the second-half of July.
His first competitive game in 15 months was Laune Rangers’ opening group fixture in the intermediate championship against Rathmore on July 24.
As to Crowley’s display, he doesn’t even attempt to sugarcoat 15 months of rustiness.
“I was absolutely terrible,” he says, “I was so bad I had to get switched with a minor from full-back out to wing-back.
“Of course it was just great to get back out playing and get the first proper hit. I had played one or two challenge games but they are not quite the same. It was good to get the first cut and thrust championship game under the belt. Fifteen months without football was a long, long while. It is that classic thing that you only realise how much you really enjoy something till it is taken away from you.”
Divisional commitments followed the conclusion of the intermediate championship group stages, Mid Kerry - for whom Crowley lines out at right half-back - winning more championship games in an eight-day period at the end of August than they had managed in the previous three years.
A third victory in an enthralling semi-final against Crokes has left them an hour from county championship glory.
Much like everything else in 2020, you couldn’t have scripted Mid Kerry reaching the decider, nor the manner in which they would do so.
Final involvement alone, though, does not represent a satisfactory summer’s work, irrespective of Mid Kerry’s struggles in recent years or the strength of this evening’s opposition.
“Winning is the only reason you come back. I didn't go through 15 months of not playing… you just want to win.
“East Kerry are comfortable favourites for a reason. They have got the best forward in the country. They are county champions and they've added three Kerry seniors, plus Mark Ryan. We are under no illusion as to how big a task it is. But we have got a lot of talent and we are not scared.”
And, finally, with six championship games behind him, does the 2014 All-Star feel he is back at pre-Covid and pre-cruciate tear sharpness?
“We are getting there. Every day you are a little bit less shit, is how I'd describe it. The first day I set a pretty low bar, so it has been building up since then.
“This summer has been great. Training with Mid Kerry, the talent is really top notch. Again, it is just moving up through the levels. First, get back to the club, now the county championship, and when this finishes, it will be getting back in with the county and making sure I get up to the required level I know I can get up to.”