CORK senior footballer Niamh Cotter is using the current Covid-19 lockdown to recover from a serious back injury.
The Beara and West Cork midfielder transferred to Dublin club Kilmacud Crokes earlier this year be closer to University College Dublin where she is studying for a Masters in European Law.
It wasn’t an easy decision but a necessary one as a five-hour round-trip to the capital was proving arduous during the 23-year-old’s most important college year.
But it wasn’t long after Cotter had made that difficult decision when an unfortunate injury suffered during a Cork challenge game halted the Glengariff native’s on-field progress.
‘I injured my back a week before the national league started,’ Cotter told The Southern Star.
‘We had a challenge game just before we were to play Westmeath at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. I picked up a very bad knock during that game but, at first, we thought it was a pure impact injury and would clear up quickly. Four or five weeks later, I was still in an awful lot of pain.
‘I went for a scan and it turned out that I had a ruptured disc in my back that was pressing against the sciatic nerve which runs down my legs. I was getting really bad shooting pains in my legs so I had to get an injection into my back to help deal with the pain.’
At the time, it looked like Cotter would miss a chunk of the season, but given that the current season is on hold, she now has unexpected time to recover from the injury.
‘Please God, I am on the road to recovery now,’ Cotter said.
‘I guess if I was looking for a cloud with a silver lining amongst everything else that is going on, at least I have time to rehab my back and get it right before things start up again.
‘It has been a very frustrating injury because at the start of the year you are only dying to get going with the football. I've been out of action for over three months now and I'm the worst patient ever! This has all come on the back of last summer when I broke my hand but thankfully, that cleared up fine. I was out for about five or six weeks with that.
‘The thing is when it comes to back injuries, they are very temperamental so it is all about trying to get things right and not do any further damage to it. I'm a hard woman to keep down but less is more when it comes to back injuries. It is something I struggle with but I'm getting better at doing less now.’
The entire West Cork region is dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak as best it can and Glengariff is no different. Whilst Cotter misses playing football, her parent’s roles as Glengariff’s local GPs has helped put things in perspective.
‘I miss the social aspect of sport, especially the training sessions and just meeting up with the other girls,’ Cotter stated.
‘That has been tough but then I look at both my parents who are doctors and how hard they are working right now. They are both GPs based in Glengariff so obviously they are not on the actual frontline but are still seeing and dealing with a huge amount of patients. My parents are taking a massive amount of calls and working exceptionally hard, in fairness to them.
‘Considering how hard they are working, I have no right to be complaining really. The whole Covid-19 has put everything in perspective, not just for me, but for everyone. What is becoming clear with each passing day is the amazing job everyone involved in the Irish healthcare system is doing at the moment.’
Thing have also changed when it comes to the Cork midfielder’s academic workload. Covid-19 has completely altered the way students are engaging with their respective colleges and institutions. Cotter is no different and fortunate many of her assignments can be completed remotely.
‘Basically, all my lectures have moved online,’ the UCD student said.
‘To be honest, with my Masters, I don’t have that many sit-in exams. Thankfully, I have mostly assignments and take-home exams so haven’t been too badly affected. One of my biggest problems has not been able to get into the library as I need access to a lot of books for completing my Masters.
‘In fairness to my lecturers, they are making some of the course material online which is a big help. It is actually a very busy time for me right now involving long days of reading and completing assignments. I’m like everyone else really, just adapting to situation as best I can, getting on with things and completing the work.’
Staying positive, Cotter is looking forward to finally lining out for her new Dublin-based club, Kilmacud Crokes. The 23-year-old doesn’t know when that will happen and admits it will be a strange feeling to wear a new jersey other than Beara or West Cork’s.
‘I spoke to a lot of people including my family, Ephie Fitzgerald and a few of my fellow Cork senior football players (about the decision to transfer to Kilmacud Crokes),’ Cotter concluded.
‘It just wasn't going to be feasible (this year), and even though the decision broke my heart, I had to be realistic and transfer to Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin. It was of those things that I felt I had to do. I had previously played a bit of football for UCD when I was in Dublin and knew a few of the Kilmacud girls as they are based beside the college.
‘So there was a connection before I decided to go for it with Crokes but, to be honest, after everything that has happened with Covid-19, everything, all GAA, is up in the air right now. We (Kilmacud) haven't played any games or anything just yet but I am looking forward to the day I can finally get out on the pitch with them.’