Mind, body and dreams gone with a single snap
By Kevin Egan
As Tadhg De Búrca lay on the ground in last year’s All-Ireland hurling final against Limerick, mental pain and physical pain jostled with each other inside the mind of the Waterford centre back.
Many players wouldn’t know exactly what had happened, but having previously suffered from a cruciate ligament injury while playing for his club Clashmore-Kinsalebeg, there was no doubt in his mind as to what he had just done, or what lay ahead for the coming weeks and months.
“I knew straight away it was the cruciate again, I heard the pop and I was weak after it” he recalled, speaking today at Croke Park for the launch of PwC's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All-Stars.
“They weren't great thoughts going through the head, knowing you are going through that nine-month process again, even longer. A lot of rehab to be done, and hard work.
“We weren’t going too well in the match either. Limerick were always those few points ahead in the game. That made it worse again. An All-Ireland final is one of the biggest days of your career, it should be everything in that moment but instead at the back of your mind, you are thinking, you’re after doing your cruciate and you have a long few months ahead”.
Unlike a lot of players, who might stay involved with the county panel, De Búrca has made a clean departure. Nearly six months later he’s at the stage of doing some straight line running, so this Summer’s Munster and All-Ireland senior hurling championship competitions are far too close. Instead, he’s looking at getting back into his club’s green and red colours in the Autumn as his likely return to competitive action.
“Sometimes you are fine with the rehab, some days you question the knee; is it where it is supposed to be. Sometimes the mental challenge can be difficult enough, but this year is different to the last time in 2019 where I was trying to rush back for inter-county” he explained.
“This year, that kind of pressure is off. I know I won’t make inter-county, I’ll just try to be getting back for the club in maybe September, October. The pressure to get back isn’t as much as it was the last time around”.
In his absence, he says that champions Limerick are the favourites, but there are plenty of contenders for the Shannonsiders’ throne – including his native county.
“Obviously Limerick are a serious team, it does look like they're to the fore this year but I still think Galway are a serious opposition for them. Galway have that physicality to match them that way if they get their scores on the board I wouldn't be surprised if Galway beat them this year” he said.
“Also you've Waterford weren't bad, Kilkenny never gone away, they'll be a serious opposition to anyone this year, Wexford, and like I said it's very hard to know with the league this year how any team is going to go in the championship. But I wouldn't be saying Limerick are clear-cut favourites. There will definitely be teams that put it up to them, maybe even beat them”.
Will that team be Waterford? The Déise are on the opposite side of the draw in Munster, with Clare first on the agenda, but overall De Búrca feels that they will be a better side in 2021, notwithstanding the injury concerns in the panel which were added to at the weekend.
“It's hard to know what stage any team is at but knowing Liam (Cahill) and Mikey Bevans and the lads, they'll definitely be kicking on this year. They won’t be resting on their laurels at all from last year.
“Their attacking is very good, they're getting a lot of scores on the board. They won't be too happy with the scores they've conceded alright but plenty of time to recover for that and try rectify it.
“Yeah so we're not all out defence or all-out attack either so it's very enjoyable. The style of play is enjoyable to watch, they're getting scores on the board and they're not totally open at the back either. It's free-flowing hurling and when you've players like Calum Lyons and Austin Gleeson, those kind of flair players are always going to add excitement to the team and matches and it's always great to see”.
And what will it be like to watch from the sideline, instead of the heart of the Waterford defence?
“People can ask me that at the end of the year! Yeah obviously you want to be part of the panel but I wouldn't begrudge anyone. Hopefully they play to their potential this year and I'll be shouting for them, hoping that’s enough”.