“How did I know concussion was going to be mentioned?” asked Kevin Downes afterwards, with a wry smile.
It being such a hot topic at the moment and this being the week he should return to the Na Piarsaigh team, his absence from November’s Munster final win as a result of a head trauma injury wasn’t going to be overlooked at a national media event.
The Sunday before the final, he had jumped to retrieve a puck-out near the sideline just seconds prior to the referee confirming the Limerick side’s semi-final win over Thurles Sarsfields. Colliding with an opponent, the 24-year-old was still able to walk off the field but the pain gradually became more of a concern.
“With concussion, you can’t define it very quickly after. I knew I had a sore head and that but you’re just kind of hoping it goes away within two or three days. I suppose it was fairly apparent on the Wednesday or Thursday I wasn’t going to play. It was very frustrating but there’s nothing you can do only be as positive as you can. It’s very hard to do it but that’s all you do.”
There was no attempt by Downes to hoodwink team doctor Dave Boylan about the extent of his condition.
“We just had a chat about it. Were the symptoms going away? No they weren’t. In fairness to Dave, he was very straight down the line. He wasn’t a Na Piarsaigh man with this decision. If there were any doubts, I wasn’t going playing.
“It was funny after the game. We hadn’t kind of announced I wasn’t going to be playing. People were saying it was just protocol but I just wasn’t fit to play. It was as simple as that, it wasn’t protocol.”
The symptoms were ones of disorientation, he recalls. “If you were looking at the television, it’s very hard to focus your eyes. There was blurred vision. You don’t feel well at all… dizzy. Getting pale. Fatigue sets in. You’re straining your eyes. Any movement affects you. Apart from the medical side of things, playing a game of hurling wouldn’t be ideal, with the ball fizzing around.”
Worryingly, Downes has been concussed before. “I missed a good few games in 2012. Dave Boylan was actually the Limerick doctor then at the time as well.”
Na Piarsaigh didn’t require his services to beat Ballygunner just as they didn’t need David Breen who was sidelined from the county final against Patrickswell up to the provincial decider.
Both situations told Downes plenty about the club’s reserves. “There two lads that were on the Limerick panel so to win it, it was a great sign for the panel, I think.”
With both men back in harness, the club have little in the way of excuses as they attempt this Saturday to make amends for their two previous All-Ireland semi-final defeats to Loughgiel Shamrocks in 2011 and Portumna two years later.
Downes tries to explain those setbacks: “In 2011, we were a very, very young team and I suppose you could put it down to that. You learn a lot of things from defeats in particular and we would have picked up a few pointers from other teams and other panels of players since then. We’ve built up a lot of experience over the last few years and hopefully we can show that and bring it to the table (on Saturday).
“We definitely didn’t play to our best but got it to extra-time and they kicked on. It’s very disappointing, the same way the Portumna one is. Again, they got a lead on us at the start and we never got it back on them.”
Downes senses Oulart-the- Ballagh will play with abandon, having claimed a Leinster title after so many years of just falling short.
“For them, winning the Leinster was a massive deal. I’m sure they’ll go going out saying, ‘express yourself’. I think they’ll be very confident after coming through Wexford and winning Leinster. We’ll have our work cut out. They’ll be very, very strong. Plenty of their players have played on the Wexford team.”
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