GAA Football

Lockdown rehab and recovery has Richie Donnelly ready to go

Kerry's Brian Ó Beaglaoich comes under pressure from Tyrone's Richie Donnelly and Colm Cavanagh in the 2019 All-Ireland Football semi-final game at Croke Park, Dublin. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

Richie Donnelly hasn’t kicked a ball for Tyrone this year, but lockdown has offered him an opportunity to save his season.

An Achilles tendon injury forced him to miss the McKenna Cup and five NFL ties, and his prospects of featuring for the Red Hands this summer looked bleak.

However, with four months of rehab and recovery under his belt, he’s fully fit and ready for action.

The attacker’s return to the mix is the latest in a strong of major boosts for manager Mickey Harte, who has also welcomed back fit-again Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane.

The key pair have also made the most of the suspension of gaelic games to recover from serious injuries.

“I have worked my way back and used the time well to get the body right. It’s a big improvement and I’m feeling a lot better, thankfully,” said Donnelly.

“I have had a long-standing issue with it this last four or five years, it has been a big problem area for me, so it was good to get this amount of time to try and get it right.

“Hopefully I can now get the body sorted for a couple of seasons without getting bother with it.

“It came back again last year mid-summer, but I got a bit of treatment on it, and that gave me a window of pain-free football going into the latter stages of the Super 8s and into the club season, so it felt grand at that stage. But in pre-season it came back again and started to give me bother.”

Donnelly’s injury woe is just the latest in a series of setbacks to interrupt a career blighted by injury.

Frequently, the Trillick man has established himself in the Tyrone team, only to be knocked back by injury.

“It has been frustrating. There have been times when it has been great, feeling fit and healthy, and my performances reflected that.

“But it’s part and parcel of the game nowadays. I’d say you could count on one hand the amount of inter-county footballers across the country that are feeling a hundred per cent.

“Everyone generally has something that they’re trying to keep at bay, or trying to manage, or playing through pain.

“The demands are absolutely huge for amateur players. Something is going to give in your body when you’re trying to be at that level for a number of years.

“Every player in the country is in the same boat, so you just kinda learn to get on with it.”

Older brother Mattie is also ready to play again, initially with the club this weekend, having suffered serious hamstring damage last November.

With All-Star McShane also available again following an ankle injury, lockdown has been kind to the Red Hands.

“There’s a silver lining to the whole thing, especially with Mattie and Cathal. It gives you that window of opportunity to sort out any injuries, and I’m sure a lot of players throughout the country breathed a sigh of relief whenever they got the opportunity to do that.

“It means a renewed hunger for a lot of men, and a good opportunity to sort out the body.

“And from a Tyrone point of view, it has definitely been one of the positives to it.”

GAA players have been forced to endure many weeks of lonely training in isolation during the public health crisis, but for the Donnelly brothers, a household bubble has made life easier, enabling them to work out together.

“We kitted out a gym at the house and used the fields, we’re lucky we live in a secluded area.

“We trained together and did a bit of skills work together, we were very lucky in that way, and it’s good to have a brother at the same level, the same age that you can compete with.”

But relaxation of restrictions has enabled the players to meet in groups for joint sessions, them to allowing them to re-connect and re-energise as life takes another careful step towards a return to normality.

“It was a welcome relaxation, and great to get back in groups, get back amongst your team-mates and see where you’re at.

“You definitely miss it, and it makes you appreciate what you have when you can train as a team and everything is running as normal.

“Training in isolation has its benefits too, but after two or three months you’re just itching to get back with your team-mates and get back in the group setting.”

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GAA Football