The cruciate was the worst. The cruciate is always the worst.
Jack McCarron should know. Five years since he broke onto the Monaghan senior panel, he is only now beginning to make a name for himself. Because for a time there he was the guy who would have had no luck at all if it wasn’t for bad luck.
How bad was it? Well, there was the shoulder operation that cost him most of 2012 and there was the cruciate suffered in a meaningless club game against Castleblayney when Currin had already been relegated at the back end of 2014.
Then it was the torn hamstring in December 2015 that fostered a string of similar issues throughout 2016 and not to mention the torn ankle ligaments that required another appointment under the surgeon’s knife last summer.
“I suppose the initial phase with the cruciate, once you do it you realise you are going to be out for a sustained period of time,” he explained ahead of Monaghan’s Ulster Championship quarter-final away to Cavan this weekend.
“After the initial period there you kind of get over that. When I came back from the cruciate, the hamstring injuries were very frustrating, each time a five-, six-week period. You think, ‘All right, I am back playing’ and suddenly it happens again.
“I found them very frustrating. It happened me about three times in a row. It was very demoralising. You just have to take a couple of days to yourself to get over it and get back training then.”
McCarron’s father Ray is a two-time Ulster champion and former All Star, his sister Ellen played in three All-Ireland finals for the county, and Dick Clerkin is a first cousin. That pedigree has been obvious so far this year.
It started with the few minutes pocketed in the second league game against Cavan four months ago and he has played all six game since, claiming 3-31 along the way and emerging as the man who may finally be able to ease the burden of scoring off Conor McManus’ shoulders.
There is, he suggested, an element of making up for lost time about his performances. It’s three years, for instance, since he played in Croke Park. That aside, the injuries rarely enter his mind. There isn’t a thought about what could go wrong again.
“No, no, I feel fine. Any time I come back from the injuries I wouldn’t be one of these fellas constantly worrying about something. Once you are back, you are back and if you started to worry about something else happening then that would be the time that something would happen.”
If there has been one high point so far then it’s probably the 1-9 he poached against Dublin at the start of April, 1-5 of it from play. That dipped to two points — one of them a free — in the Ulster opener against Fermanagh when Monaghan claimed five points more. A ridiculously small sample size, obviously, but the jumps do get higher through the summer.
“We’ve only played Fermanagh since and in Ulster is a lot more defensive than what we come up against in the league. We kind of expected that as well. I was coming deep a bit more — they had more men behind the ball — just to try and get on the ball as much as possible.”
The omens for more flags the weekend aren’t great. Cavan and Monaghan managed just seven points each when they met in the league but this is a local derby and a fit and firing McCarron appreciates that more given his proximity to the border.
And the trials he has had to endure just to be there.
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