Jeff Hendrick insists he will be fit in good time for the European Championship finals, although he is currently still some way off being ready to return to action for Derby County.
The 24-year-old Dubliner emerged as one of the success stories for Martin O’Neill over the course of Ireland’s qualification campaign but recently suffered an injury double whammy which has made him a concern for the manager as the Euros loom large.
Hendrick had to pull out of the squad for last month’s friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia after twice dislocating his shoulder in the space of a single week. But it was a different injury, which arose the moment he got back out on the training pitch, which has caused the bigger problem.
“I started back training with Derby and, in the first 10 minutes, I pulled a quad muscle so it wasn’t a good start,” he says. “I have never pulled a muscle in my quad. It happened when I was warming up. I went to sprint and felt it. I thought it was just a bit of fitness at the start but when I tried one more sprint, that was it. It was a bit too painful to carry on. Two hours later I was sitting in a MRI machine getting scanned up. Then I got the news that night.
“But it’s going along good now. They said initially that it would be up to five weeks but at the end of the first week I started a bit of light jogging. Initially, they said I’d be back after the last game of the season and to get ready for the play-offs if we are in them. But, for me, I’d like to get back in the week leading up to it where I can get a week’s training and then be up for selection for the game — and get a few minutes in that game if it was possible.”
On the plus side, earlier fears about the possible extent of his shoulder problem have been allayed.
“Last month, the problem was with my shoulder and there were talks of maybe having an operation,” he reveals. “But I have seen a few specialists and different physios over in England and I got some good news about that. I’ve got rehab tips and extra strapping I can wear to help it.”
Like all footballers, the midfielder loathes being away from the action but, nevertheless, he insists he copes well with the challenge of being in sick bay.
“Initially, you’re frustrated because, at times, you don’t know how long you’ll be out for,” he admits. “But I think I cope with it well. I try and keep my head. I focus on what I need to do on the rehab side, then I go in the gym. I try and keep myself in shape as much as I can. It gives me something else to think about, rather than just the injury.
“Because it’s such a big summer I know I need to stay fit and get back as soon as possible, without rushing myself. That’s the main thing. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the grass and upping the running every few days, whenever they let me.”
So any doubt at all in his own mind over his availability for France?
“I’m convinced I’ll be back fit by then,” he says.
Jeff Hendrick was speaking in Dublin yesterday on a visit to the Deaf Village Ireland, in Cabra, to promote DeafHear’s new hearing aid service. He also met with Deaf Sports Ireland to encourage young football players with hearing loss to play for the Irish Deaf Football team.
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