GAA Football

Down star Darragh O'Hanlon to undergo spinal surgery after back injury

Darragh O'Hanlon in action for Kilcoo in the Ulster Club Championship semi-final against Armagh champions Crossmaglen. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

DOWN and Kilcoo star Darragh O’Hanlon has been told he will need spinal surgery to resolve the back injury that has ruled him out of club and county championship games this year.

The 25-year-old who has been a key part of the Magpies’ six in-a-row senior championship-winning sides and the Down team that reached last year’s Ulster final, sustained the injury at a county training session in May and has been living with pain and battling to get back to fitness since.

On Wednesday, O’Hanlon – an Irish News Ulster Allstar in 2017 – was told that he will need to undergo surgery in the next 7-10 days and if the surgery goes as planned – and surgeons are understood to be very confident that it will – he could return to football next year.

O’Hanlon, who has won Down championship winners’ medals in each of the last nine seasons (three as a minor and six at senior level) suffered the injury during a tough county training session as Down prepared for their Ulster Championship opener against Antrim. 

He battled on through the pain but woke for work in pain the following morning.

“I thought I was sore from training the night before,” he explained.

“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.”

Back then O’Hanlon was resigned to the fact that his inter-county season was over but he hoped to have recovered in time to play his part in Kilcoo’s bid for a record-breaking seven in-a-row in the Down championship after the Magpies had matched Burren’s existing record of six last year.

Unfortunately for him, his team-mates and Kilcoo supporters, he will not be involved, but Kilcoo PRO Michael Kane says the committed clubman remains a “positive voice” around the club.

“He is heading for spinal surgery to get the disc shaved,” he explained.

“He will be heading for the operation in the next 7-10 days and hopefully everything will go well.

“He will be out of action for the foreseeable future and he will hope to come back stronger than ever when he’s fully mended.

“I know he’s disappointed to miss out on the championship but he remains a very positive voice in the dressing room.”

Kane added: “The club wish him well in his operation and recovery.”

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