Jamie Wall has played minor and U21 hurling and football for Cork. He was on the county senior football panel and had just won a Munster intermediate hurling medal in June 2014 when an infection meant that he lost the use of his legs...
Q: Your analysis of games in your GAA columns has been well-received, do you enjoy it?
“As much as I enjoy it, it’s a poor substitute for what I want to be doing. I got involved with the U21s in the club this year, that was enjoyable, getting down to the pitch and training, it’s as close to playing as you can get.
“If things were to stay the same, coaching is a natural progression, you go on and see what avenues are open. It’s a poor substitute, but what option do you have?
“You’d be kicking yourself in 20 years’ time if you didn’t give it as good a go as you could for as long as you could, but that doesn’t cut off your other options for the meantime. I’m playing basketball in Dublin today – my first competitive outing, I’ll probably be on the bench all day because I’m not there yet. What it has given me is a new-found appreciation for the lads growing up on teams who were struggling and who stayed at it and made up the numbers because, at the moment, I’m one of those lads! That and the writing, a bit of coaching, these are all pastimes. Just because I’m doing the exo [robotic exoskeleton, a device which allows him to walk] or going to England or chasing all these avenues, doesn’t mean you can’t do all of these other things. There’s nothing stopping you from pursuing two paths.”
Q: The recovery effort must mean that you’re exercising more than before?
“In an average week, I’d be with the lads at the Elite Gym five days a week, maybe use the exo two days. Outside of that, I train with the lads in the basketball Mondays and Thursdays and I’ve a set-up at home with FES (functional electrical stimulation), which I would have done a lot of when I was in England.
“There’s a lot of training, but a lot of it is stuff you can be doing when you’re doing something – I have a standing frame in the living room so, rather than sit watching television, I stand watching television.
“The FES bike, I can sit on that while it’s spinning my legs around but I can be watching Entourage on my laptop. It’s about maximising what time I have – when I’m in leisure-time, it doesn’t mean I can’t be productive.”
Q: It’s a cliché but it seems like it’s all about gaining the extra inches?
“In five, six, seven, eight years’ time, if I’m still in the same situation, what have I lost? If I’ve gained a small bit, then great, it’s more than if I had done nothing. If the dream comes through and you come across some treatment or therapy, it’s the best time you’ve ever spent. I don’t see a downside to the way I’m doing it at the moment. From day one, I was never interested in saying, ‘Grand, that’s the hand I’ve been dealt’. There has to be an element of that in that you have to be pragmatic and say, ‘This is my situation’, there’s no point ignoring that. Any discussion I’ve had, I’ve said that the word ‘accept’ is a dirty word to me, I prefer the word ‘acknowledge’. I do know the realities of where I am, I’d be a fool if I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean you have to always be in that place.”
Q: Is there an anger motivating you?
“It’s hard to say. I’d be a liar if I said there weren’t times I got angry or sad but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t able to enjoy myself away from it all either. Of course there’s anger, you’re 22 and you’re headed on the right trajectory and that’s taken from you and you have to go down a different road. Rather than running from the anger, you have to just say that it’s normal, there’s no point hiding. It’s part of life that you have this situation, you just try to move forward, take that anger and deal with it.
"This happened to me in June 2014. At the start, it was an injury, you’d miss the rest of the season, it was crap but I was able to reconcile myself to it. Then the winter came and I was in Dun Laoghaire and I was able to get out at weekends and socialise with my friends, but then February came and everyone was back training. I finished in hospital on February 18 and came home but my friends were away in college or working in Cork or Dublin. Tuesdays and Thursdays used to kill me and still do, the time you’re supposed to be up in the pitch training but you’re at home scratching your head.
"I didn’t go to either of Kilbrittain’s two championship matches this year or any of the Cork senior hurling or football games. I went to Cork and club U21 games or Mary I games in the Fitzgibbon – anything that I wouldn’t have been playing in anyway as I was gone from college and overage for U21.”
Q: Do you have dreams where you’re still playing, or ones where you have recovered?
“The ones where you’re dreaming of playing, you write them off, but the ones where you dream of having recovered, they’re worse. I have had some dreams where it’s so vivid, I had them every so often in hospital.
“In the dream I’d be in the hospital bed, the same place I was in reality, I’d be moving my foot and calling the nurse in and then the next morning I’d wake up and there’d be 20 seconds where you’re wondering what happened.”
Q: The support you have had is incredible?
“I wouldn’t be able to put it into words. Immediate family, extended family, my own club and the neighbouring clubs. I was in hospital two days and there was a letter sent from Valley Rovers (a neigbhouring club) to Marion Twohig, our club secretary, wishing me all the best and Newcestown had a poc fada the day after Stephen’s Day and donated funds. I’d forget someone if I listed out everything, but from the micro to the macro, you’re blown away sometimes by it. Sometimes, I might put something up on my Instagram and you’d have kids saying, ‘Come on, you can do it’. It sounds cheesy but it’s a huge boost, maybe I’m insane but I am going to keep at it.”
Q: Tomorrow’s Cork Premier Intermediate final features two neighbouring clubs who you’d know well, have you any preference as to who wins?
“I’d count a lot of the Newcestown lads as good friends and I have friends with Valleys too, I’d have lived with John Cottrell for three years in college. I was happy to see the two teams in the county final, I don’t really subscribe to the notion of disliking neighbouring clubs. Both are good local examples of well-run clubs.
“For a lot of people around it might be lose-lose but for me it’s win-win. I’ve been saying for years that, in Kilbrittain, we shouldn’t be looking over cursing Newcestown, we should aspire to be like them, you can’t but have respect for them. Even when they have a limited team – which is rare – you’re still doing very well to beat them.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about the game and they’ve said that it’ll be a very physical game but I think it does an awful injustice to them, there are some very skilful players on each team.”
Q: And the senior final between Sarsfields and Glen Rovers?
“I think I’m being very lazy saying Sars but I just can’t see past them. I think that they have too much in the overall 15. I’d like to see the Glen win it, Na Piarsaigh in 2004 were the last city team to win it. For the amount Patrick Horgan gives to Cork hurling, he deserves one but I just think Sars will win.”
The Friends of Jamie Wall is an organisation set up to provide support for Jamie, with events all over the country having raised proceeds to aid his recovery, with the motto being ‘Never give up, never let up’. To get in touch with Jamie, read his blog, make a donation or to find out information about upcoming activities, visit www.friendsofjamiewall.ie
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