Ronan Clarke out of coma and `able to recognise loved ones'
RONAN Clarke's father has told how the GAA All Star "lapsed in and out of consciousness" as he was driven to hospital after suffering a head injury during a club championship match.
Doctors at Craigavon Area Hospital have woken the former Armagh All Ireland winner from his medically-induced coma and he is able to recognise loved ones and has spoken a few words.
His family say they are "very, very hopeful" about his recovery, but stress it will be a slow process and he remains in intensive care.
"They've started to gradually take him off the drugs and he's breathing on his own," his father Adrian Clarke said.
"He does recognise us and can understand what we're saying. He's speaking a little and it's somewhat audible, but he very tired."
Clarke and his new wife Michelle had been due to travel to Rome yesterday for the second part of their honeymoon.
She has been maintaining a vigil at his hospital bed.
"She's bearing up very, very well," her father-in-law said.
"She's been quite wonderful and dealing with the situation as best she can."
Clarke was focusing on the ball as it came into the square when he collided with a goalpost while playing for Pearse Og during their Friday night match against Maghery.
His father said no one had realised at first how serious it was and, although he was asked to leave pitch, Clarke refused and played on for the final five minutes of the game.
"He had a certain momentum which he made contact with the upright, but I was far enough away and couldn't be 100 per cent that he made contact and Ronan doesn't remember anything," he said.
"But he came back from the post and crumpled and I knew something was wrong. I knew he'd made contact with the upright, but I thought he'd split (cut) himself or something.
"He was asked to leave the field but he wouldn't come off and played on."
The 32-year-old, who married his Michelle just a fortnight ago, had changed their honeymoon plans to ensure he was back for the important championship match.
"They're just back from Malta, they were supposed to go somewhere else, but he needed to be back for the match so they went to Malta and were supposed to go to Rome this morning for the second leg of their honeymoon.
However, his condition began to deteriorate and his father drove him to hospital.
"When I got him to hospital he was lapsing in and out of consciousness," Mr Clarke said who revealed his son was moved into an induced coma and placed on a ventilator.
The family had a scare when medics tried to bring him round from his coma on Saturday but Clarke did not respond.
"The problem with this type of injury is you just don't know. The brain tries to protect itself in different ways. It's very early days yet but we're optimistic.
"We've had so many people wishing him well and so many people praying for him.
"Ronan has great qualities to get through this. He has returned from many a setback. He's very modest and he would be shocked by all this publicity."