Kevin Downes went through a long rehab process to recover from a cruciate injury…
Na Piarsaigh are back in Croke Park, chasing their second All-Ireland title in three years when they face Cuala on Saturday afternoon. The Limerick city outfit boast ten county stars, and have had an imperious march to the decider in recent months.
One of the side’s main stars this campaign has been Kevin Downes. The Treaty hurler is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous forwards around, when fit and firing. However, the 26-year-old has had more than his fair share of injuries in recent times, and faced almost a year on the sidelines between June 2016 and May 2017 due to a cruciate injury.
Speaking ahead of the final, Downes admitted it was a tough recovery process.
“The cruciate is a fairly lonely road. It’s difficult, a lot of rehab, a lot of work on your own.
“You’d have your exercise to do and you might be doing it on the side of the field and the boys are out doing their hurling session. To come back from that, it was brilliant. It was very satisfying for myself. I suppose when you’re playing and you don’t have that, you can take certain things for granted, maybe. That really gives you an appreciation for it definitely.
“Unless you go through it, you don’t understand fully the long road that it is. You see Bernard Brogan there at the moment and Aaron Shanagher there in Clare and even though you don’t know of these fellas, you’d nearly wince for them; you’d be gutted for them.”
Downes conceded that it was frustrating to be out of action after the injury, but they came up with an unusual way of getting the heart rate up again.
“I actually remember that I saw a video of Sonny Bill Williams, the All Black. He had a torn Achilles or something but he had a video up, he was on a rowing machine but he had the bad leg taped onto a skateboard. I sent it onto Darragh Droog, our strength and conditioning coach and said ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Yeah come in the next morning’.
“I was inside in Delta Altitude Centre doing that taped up to the skateboard. There was a spinning class going on in the rest of the room. I could see them all looking at me, ‘What is this? What is this clown at?’ I suppose at that stage, you’d be mad to do anything to just get a bit of sweat up to feel normal again to get back doing a bit of training.”
Whether or not it looked stupid, it has certainly paid off for Downes, as he and his clubmates head for Jones’ Road on Saturday, facing off against the reigning champions.
As the last two winners of the Tommy Moore Cup face off, it has all the makings of a classic. Winning it would come as huge satisfaction for Downes, who has poured so much energy into making it back to this level.
Na Piarsaigh’s Kevin Downes was speaking ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park on Saturday, 17th of March where the Limerick club will face Dublin’s Cuala.
For exclusive content and behind the scenes action throughout the AIB GAA & Camogie Club Championships follow AIB GAA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and www.aib.ie/gaa.