HE’S ahead of schedule but he’s not losing the run of himself either.
On Tuesday night of last week, Brian Hurley jogged on the anti-gravity treadmill at the Mardyke Arena in Cork city.
It’s the first time he jogged seriously since he partially ripped his hamstring four inches off the bone during a Cork football training session in early July.
‘It’s a landmark moment,’ he said, as his rehab picks up pace.
This is Week 16.
Week by week, the Castlehaven footballer can see and feel the improvement. He’s come a long way from the moment his leg brace came off, six weeks after his operation on August 1st, and he saw his left quad for the first time.
It didn’t even look like a first cousin of his right quad.
‘I felt like a kid on a bike that had just got rid of his stabilisers when the brace came off,’ he said.
‘It was frightening enough when it did come off because my left quad was literally half the size of my other quad. I hadn’t used it for six weeks and there was muscle wastage. I used to think that my legs were fairly big but I thought, “how am I ever going to get back playing football with this?”
‘I started rehab when I was in the brace but getting it off was a massive relief because I knew I could get the ball rolling.’
Inch by inch, Hurley’s edging along the comeback trail.
He started off in the pool, eased into the gym with some basic exercises before progressing to more power and strength work, as he builds up his glutes and hamstrings to get as much muscle into his leg before his return to grass.
‘The leg is very strong at the minute,’ Hurley (24) said.
‘I am fortunate to have the best people in my corner and the best facilities – that gives me great confidence. Dr Eanna Falvey is leading this (former Irish rugby doctor) and he’s been brilliant.
‘I have done a lot of work with the physio. We have been working four, five nights a week. There’s been gym sessions, stretching sessions, and we’re making progress. Last week we had boxing to activate my legs.
‘I did some jogging on the spot (last Wednesday night week) and I think I’m ahead schedule, but there is no rush back because I want to get this 100 per cent right.
‘The plan was to be running on the grass for Christmas but hopefully that will be brought forward a few weeks.
‘That’s all I want for Christmas – to get back running.
‘I am a young fella from Castlehaven, all I ever wanted to do was play football. This is the longest time I have ever been out and not been able to kick a ball. Sixteen hours is a long time not to kick a ball, not to mind 16 weeks.
‘I can’t wait to get back playing but I will be patient.’
In his own words, he was bricking it.
Saturday, July 30th, Brian Hurley was sitting in Croke Park, watching – and supporting – Cork’s footballers against Donegal in an All-Ireland SFC Round 4B qualifier.
The Castlehaven man was more nervous than most, and it wasn’t all because of the do-or-die nature of the game. He knew that on bank holiday Monday morning, he’d go under the knife for surgery on the serious hamstring injury that KO’ed his season.
Hurley’s surgery was initially scheduled for the Sunday morning after the Cork v Donegal game, but he was only postponing the inevitable.
‘I was nervous about the match because I knew that after it, the surgery was next up. The fear was there that I was going under the knife. I’d think that I’m a brave boy but I was dreading it,’ he admitted.
‘I was bricking it, to be honest.’
Four weeks earlier, Hurley’s season came to a shuddering halt when he partially tore his hamstring off the bone when trying to feign a dummy during an in-house training game at Cork training.
He knew straightaway it was a bad injury. He heard his muscle rip. His hamstring was in shreds. His season ended there and then, for Cork and Castlehaven.
‘I can still remember what happened, the feeling was unbearable,’ Hurley recalled.
‘I tried to dummy some of the lads. I went to push off my right foot and sell a dummy, and then swing off my left and push off from my left leg as hard as possible. My right leg stayed where it was and my left leg pushed off left – but it slipped and kept slipping. I did half the splits.
‘When I did slip, the muscle tore the whole way up. I heard it. It was like ripping a shirt, rip, rip, rip, or even tearing a newspaper. The pain was horrific. If someone had stamped on my hand with a pair of six-studs, I wouldn’t have felt it, all the pain was on the one spot. I knew I was in serious trouble.’
Surgery was a no-brainer – the muscle had come four inches off the bone. Fast forward to bank holiday Monday in August when Dr James Harty worked his magic.
‘There are three muscles in the hamstring and I tore off two of them. It was still a partial tear, but it was four inches off the bone. I have a four and a half inch scar now down my hamstring. I got 18 staples on the outside of the leg to sow it back up and a week and a half later I had them taken out,’ Hurley said.
‘If I didn’t have surgery it would have mended away from the bone and every time I’d go to sprint, I wouldn’t have been able to sprint.
‘It was an easy decision – I had to get the muscle attached back on.’
He’s itching to get back playing but it’s far too early to pin a date on any inter-county return with Cork.
This is step by step, week by week.
Realistically, it looks like the tail end of Cork’s Allianz Football League Division 2 campaign before Rebel supporters will see any glimpse of Hurley, and even then he needs to overcome the mental scars that a serious injury like this brings with it.
Like the first time he goes to hit top gear in a sprint, will the power be there and will he still have that acceleration to call on? Will he be the same player? All questions he will face at some point in his recovery.
‘If you want to call a spade a spade, there’s a big difference in getting back playing football and then playing football at inter-county level,’ the Castlehaven footballer admitted.
‘I have to build this gradually. I am dying to get back but this was a serious injury and it will take time before I get back on the field properly, get rid of the rustiness and get the skills levels back to where they were.
‘I would love to get back for some part of the league but realistically you’re looking at the end of the league, if anything. I will take it week by week after Christmas. My own aim will be to get back playing with Castlehaven and use that as a launch-pad for the next step.
‘All going well, maybe I’ll be back with Cork for the end of the league but I’m not getting my hopes up, there could be setbacks.’
After Hurley suffered his eye-watering hamstring injury, a post mortem was carried out and the results were intriguing, as he explains.
‘I was lifting a lot of heavy weights on my legs that week on my own accord. I was wearing a GPS the day I got injured and I was wearing one the week before as well, and what they are saying is that there was fatigue in my muscle. I felt 100 per cent and I didn’t know that there was fatigue in my legs,’ he said.
‘I was below my normal pace on the day I got injured, and if you are below your norml pace or even above it, you are in danger of suffering an injury.
‘Unfortunately, that morning when I went into that point to sell the dummy, my muscles were fatigued and they couldn’t come around it – and the end result was the torn hamstring.’
That was then, this is now, and Hurley’s on the mend.