ONE day, his World Cup dream was shattered. The next, he was back in with a fighting chance of leading Ireland’s charge. And now, Irish goalkeeper and captain David Harte is hopeful of being back between the posts in next Monday’s final warm-up game against The Netherlands.
The Ballinspittle native – twice voted the world’s best hockey goalkeeper – is confident that he will prove his fitness ahead of the Hockey World Cup in India, starting at the end of the month, despite Spanish doctors initially telling Harte he had fractured his fibula.
Ahead of a four-nations match against The Netherlands in Valencia recently, he was struck on the back of his leg, four inches above his ankle bone, one of the few unprotected parts of a goalkeeper’s body, by the ball during a drill.
That’s when the confusion started.
‘I had a small trip to hell and back when I was out in Spain,’ Harte told The Southern Star.
‘I had a knock on the outside of the leg with the ball, and I was told in a Spanish hospital that it was broken. I was in a cast, on crutches, and it looked then that my World Cup was over.
‘When they said, in broken Spanish: fracture, 40 days, cast, it was a nightmare.’
The scans were also sent back to Ireland for second opinions and that’s when Harte was given hope.
‘They said that it doesn’t add up, that where the Spanish doctors said there was a fracture was in a different place to where the ball struck,’ the 30-year-old said.
Harte flew from Valencia to Utrecht – he plays his club hockey with SV Kampong in Utrecht – on the Sunday night and went for further scans the next day.
‘They took two x-rays and a CT scan, and said we cannot see any break. They are some of the best words to hear coming from a doctor: there’s no break,’ Harte explains.
‘It was a massive hematoma contusion. In other words, a massive ball bruise because the ball had full impact on the outside of the leg where there is no protection. It was a just a freak incident.’
So, from the news that he would miss the World Cup, possibly his last as he will be 34 in four years time, Harte is now planning to be back in goal next Monday and prove his fitness ahead of the tournament.
‘I was back with the lads in Belgium last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I wasn’t training with them but I was doing a little bit of controlled movement in my pads with my goalkeeping coach – that was a lot more than I thought I’d be doing,’ he says.
‘I didn’t get to play in the game against Belgium but I’m hoping to be back very soon. We have one last camp in The Netherlands from Saturday to Tuesday, and we play The Netherlands as our last warm-up game on Monday in Amsterdam. Hopefully, I’ll be back between the posts then. That’s the aim.’
Ireland’s first World Cup game in India is against Australia on November 30th and that’s followed by group games against China and England.