IT was almost a cameo appearance, an after thought.
In the 69th minute of Sunday’s NHL opener in Kilmallock, with a young Limerick side finally subdued and Galway leading by seven points, 1-17 to 1-10, David Collins was sprung from the Galway bench.
But this was no cameo, no afterthought. For both David Collins himself and for Galway this was a moment of huge significance, and in this instance at least, ‘sprung’ is the operative word – David was absolutely bursting for action. 28 months ago, October 27, 2007, captain of both county and province, this cultured wing-back was leading Connacht in a cracking Martin Donnelly Interprovincial hurling final against Munster when disaster struck.
“A lateral inversion of the ankle,” is how David described the injury. It is a recollection that doesn’t look so bad in print, but it was one of those ugly incidents that makes it on to YouTube with the foot twisted completely from its normal position. That he would even walk properly again became a major challenge in the painful weeks and months that followed. That he is back hurling at the top level is a minor miracle.
“To be honest,” Collins said, after Galway’s win, “it was a long time coming. I probably shouldn’t be back playing at all but I had a good surgeon who did two operations on it. The two operations took a lot out of me. I spent eight of the 16 months of rehab on crutches. I had to learn how to walk again, learn about balance, and that was tough.
“I had a good physio, we worked well together and probably three or four days a week was spent just on balance work. It was all really hard stuff, a lot of really annoying stuff – you often got to the point where you just wanted to give in. You try to have your attitude in good nick. But there are times you get setbacks in rehab, in any situation, but it’s things like my hamstrings, my groin, my knees, that are going to go because I’m imbalanced at the moment.
“Sprinting out there (in a match) is different to sprinting in a gym, or straight sprinting in a field, because you’re going back and forth, left and right. It takes it out of you, and there are times when you think – ‘I’m going to give this up’. It’s like climbing a mountain and when you’re on the near-vertical slope, you think – ‘right, I’m going to get to the top of this, I have to get up, I’m just going to keep driving till I get there’.
“I came back with the club (Liam Mellows) for a quarter-final in October last year and went out and tore my hamstring in the second game. These things happen, you just have to pick yourself up and go again. Like two weeks ago I picked up a dead leg and it was like, ‘Ah, what harm!’ You had to keep looking at the bigger picture – winning an All-Ireland. That’s what I’m here for, I’m not going to accept anything else before I finish. It was a long wait, the two years didn’t pass too quickly.”
They weren’t wasted, those two years. A software programmer by profession, David used the time to set up a website (www.mocks.ie) for Junior and Leaving Cert students.
“That kept me going too. When you’re out of hurling you have so much more time; you’re not training seven days a week, you have time to develop stuff, work on the other side of your life.”
Yet here he is again, back on the circuit, with even fuller knowledge now not just of what it takes, but of the price that can be paid. “I want it, I HAVE to come back to it. That was my first few minutes for Galway in two and a half years – it was nice to get back out, it was huge to get back out! I wanted to get on sooner, I was looking at John McIntyre (manager) and going – ‘let me on, to hell!’ Just to get a run-out, get a feel for it, is brilliant. Wanting to get back for Waterford the next day, that’s going to drive me on in training for the next week.
“This is a serious year for Galway. John has put in two good years and is really developing the team. I’m coming in from the outside, was watching it from the outside last year and it was kind of a kick in the teeth really, not being involved. This year I’m involved again but I’m sitting back, still watching a bit. I’m hoping to pick it up as the league campaign progresses, be ready for championship – that’s what I’m looking forward to. McIntyre, John Hardiman and the boys, they’re doing a great job – the team respects them, it’s all about the respect the players have for the management, and that’s what’s there at the moment.
“It’s great to be back. I’m very positive about it (ankle) now, it’s good and strong. I don’t want to look back, just look to the future and keep going.”
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