Injury could rule Darragh O'Hanlon out of entire Championship season with Down
DARRAGH O'Hanlon doesn't expect to play for Down again this year.
The 25-year-old, a key part of his club Kilcoo's six in-a-row championship-winning side and a fixture at wing-back for his county, hurt his back at county training a fortnight ago and has been virtually house-bound since.
O'Hanlon, who has been unable to drive, work or walk properly after suffering the injury, says he would put his “bottom dollar on it” that his season is over with Down.
“It's looking like a bulging disc or a slipped disc,” explained O'Hanlon, a sales rep with Murdocks Building Merchants.
“The pain is down my leg and that's the problem, it's maybe hitting a sciatic nerve. I can't walk that well, I'm hunched over.
“I'm trying to force myself to stand up straight and walk a bit because I'm bored stiff in the house. When you're at work every day and going straight to training you're not used to lying about, it's annoying.”
O'Hanlon, who jokes that he has watched every Premier League game since the start of the Premiership on TV since he has been laid up, realised something was amiss when he woke with an aching back after a tough training session with Down.
“I woke up on the Thursday morning and I was sore, but I thought it was sore from training the night before,” he said.
“On the Friday I got up and took a couple of painkillers and went to work. I came home, got a bit of dinner and we had a club game that evening. I took another couple of painkillers and put my boots on and went up to the field, but I couldn't even jog down to the pitch.
“On the Sunday morning I got up, but the tears were rolling down my face – I couldn't even put my socks on. I knew it was something serious.”
He knew then that his Championship season was in jeopardy and has consigned himself to watching from afar on Saturday as Down – Ulster finalists last year – get their campaign underway against Antrim at Pairc Esler.
“I would nearly put my bottom dollar on it that my season is over with Down anyway,” said the 2017 Irish News Ulster Allstar.
“After the good season I had last year I was looking forward to the Championship and it's a big blow to take. I trained all year and then this happens…
“I can't walk at the minute so by the time I get in any sort of shape to play football I'd be no good to nobody.
“I'm aiming to get back for championship time with Kilcoo. The two Down physios are looking after me the best they can – they're just cautious because it's my back and it's a tricky area but I've had a lot of team-mates and friends coming up to see me, people are really good.”
Equally at home whether he's defending or attacking, O'Hanlon is a class act at wing-back and a regular scorer from play, free-kicks and penalties for his county. Down will miss him this summer.
“I've never been out with an injury before,” he said.
“I've been lucky enough, but this is my first serious one. It'll be strange watching on Saturday, but hopefully the boys can get a win.
“Anything can happen in the Ulster Championship but I would fully expect Down to win, there's a good squad there and good players. Antrim will be a good test, but I would expect Down to get through.
“Last year nobody thought we could get to the Ulster final so if they can get over Antrim anything's possible, they could get to another final.”