I tore my hamstring after 100 metres but I ran on and caused more damage

May 8th, 2017 9:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

Comeback: Niamh McCarthy suffered two cruciate injuries in her teens, the first when she was 14 and the second when she was 17 years old, but incredibly the Inniscarra star has battled back and impressed for the Cork senior camogie team in the league this season.

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Injuries are part and parcel of the GAA – but a positive mindset is crucial in your comeback

Injuries are part and parcel of the GAA – but a positive mindset is crucial in your comeback


POP. I knew something was wrong straightaway.

The pain was immediate. And it hurt. It was like I had just been hit with something sharp, at force, to the back of the leg.

You’re also hit with dread and fear because you know this won’t end well.

That’s what I experienced when I tore my hamstring during a school sports day back in 2012 when I was taking part in the teacher versus student relay, as a member of staff in Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig. 

I tore my left hamstring quite badly during a 200-metre relay sprint and it was totally my own fault.  

I didn’t have any shoes on, I wasn’t warmed up properly and after the initial dagger-type feeling, I kept running until I passed the baton onto the last member of our team so he could sprint home first to the finish line. Some might say it was the competitive edge that pushed me to keep running, others will say it was sheer stupidity. 

I remember making the phone call to our Cork camogie manager, Paudie Murray. We were to play a national league semi-final in two days’ time. Let’s just say he wasn’t impressed and instead of getting an earful down the telephone, I was instead subjected to silence, which, believe me, is so much worse. 

To this day I don’t think he is aware of my idiotic behaviour in running through the pain. I tore it at the 100-metre mark but I still had another 100 metres to run. If he is reading this, Paudie, here is my confession!

However, deep down I think he realised that the tear I experienced couldn’t have just happened as I described it to him. He got his own way back at me when he referred me onto Liam O’Reilly, the current conditioning coach for the Cork senior camogie team. The necessary torture he put me through on that physio table was 100 times worse than actually experiencing tearing the muscle. 

Every second day I visited his practice in Inishannon and every second day elbows were pushed into the injured area. I was practically biting the edge of the table so screams could not be heard. 

In fairness, he kept talking to me to keep my mind off the pain but, to be honest, with every manipulation and movement it quickly brought me back to the agonising pain felt by the internal bleed. It was worth it though. 

Through his specialist care, icing, specific exercises and a positive can-do attitude during the recovery phase, I got back playing weeks before I should have been able to. No pain, no gain, I guess.

This memory of injuries was quickly brought back to me when I recently read an article about one of the newest Cork senior camogie forwards, Niamh McCarthy from Inniscarra. After tearing both her left and right cruciates with five years in the recovery process, she has made it back onto the camogie field at the highest level. 

It makes me feel very old, but Niamh was a student of mine when I taught in Ballincollig. She also was a shining light on the camogie field and stood out a mile when playing for the school. She was our star player as she could perform any camogie skill to a very high standard, she was incredibly fit and was as determined then as she undoubtedly is now. 

Niamh was also resilient enough to take the knocks and tackles that a player of her calibre would unfortunately get in order to stop her. There was no way you could take her off the pitch if she was in pain, she was adamant she was playing on. This never-give-up attitude has obviously stood to her, especially after recovering from two very serious knee injuries at a very young age.

Our school junior team reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2011. Hilda Kenneally and I were the coaches and we had an excellent team. Our confidence was high and training was going very well. The girls were very tuned in and prepared for a battle against St Pat’s College Maghera of Derry. 

The initial date of the semi-final had to be changed due to unplayable weather conditions so it was rescheduled for a week later. Luck was definitely against us and certainly against Niamh because days before we were to play our semi-final she played basketball in Dublin, and at 14 years of age, she tore her first cruciate ligament. It was devastating and while the team went on and played their hearts out in a brilliant fashion, we were missing Niamh from the starting 15 and lost. 

It was a cruel blow for her at such a young age as she was impressing so many coaches both in camogie and basketball and to go from a girl who never stops, to a girl who would have to change her routine and focus on recovery must have been difficult. 

I started thinking about what it takes to make a full recovery from an injury but also about how someone can face the daunting reality of re-injury. Players like Tommy Bowe and Cork footballer Brian Hurley spring to mind.

 They recently suffered another major blow having seriously injured themselves with breaks and distressing hamstring setbacks even though they worked so hard to get back to full fitness. 

Sadly, it is part and parcel of sport and the high risk you take when you step out on the field. Who knows what could happen and why it happens sometimes, but it does.  

How you approach an injury is so important. You can decide to dwell on the injury and let it consume you in a negative way or you can make the conscious decision to move on. 

While you are injured you can look positively at the things you can do, not what you can’t do. Having a good support system in friends, family and teammates also helps as an injury can have a devastating effect on the person in question.  

High self motivation is key to recovery as well as understanding your injury, the prognosis and the time frame needed. Having goals is important and small steps are better than one giant unrealistic step. 

Talking to people is crucial because in a way an injury is like a loss. You have lost the ability to do what you love, which is play a sport. For some it may just be a short-term setback, but for others this may not be the case. Being there for people who are experiencing an injury is important. Let’s face it, the majority of us have been there ourselves and know how awful it can be both physically and mentally.  

All in all, have no fear. Take that plunge back to playing when the body feels good and you have been given the go ahead by qualified specialists in the field. We take that risk and face the possibility of injury when we play the sport we love, but never think this way, just get out and play.

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