Little Steps - Colm O'Neill

As I have previously stated, recovering from a third cruciate knee ligament injury is the toughest challenge I have ever been tasked with.

Since my last blog for GAA Just Play,I have taken the initial, little steps on the long road back.

Waiting for the operation was probably the most frustrating aspect of the past month. You’ve had a scan, you know your fate, yet you still have to wait for the swelling to subside before going under the knife. When you know there is something wrong, you want to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Tuesday April 9th was the date I was pencilled in for surgery in the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford. My Dad and I have made this journey twice before, and facing it for a third time was not easy.

I have tried to remain as positive as I can since the injury happened, yet undoubtedly there have been some dark days. As we pulled into the car park of the Clinic, we were met with a signpost: turn left for the Main hospital or right for the Whitfield Cancer Centre. My Dad turned to me and said it would be a lot worse if you were heading in the other door. This is undoubtedly true, and it certainly put things in perspective for me.


Yes it’s a tough break, and for sure I feel very unlucky that it is happening for a third time, but in the overall scheme of things, there are people fighting much bigger battles than I am.
Donal Walsh, the 16 year old Kerry man who appeared on the Saturday Night Show a few weeks back, springs to mind.


This young guy is taking the fight to cancer in a way that is truly inspirational. His attitude towards life, and his spirit in the face of such adversity are incredible. A real hero. The jockey JT McNamara is also someone who crossed my mind that morning. There are so many people out there that are in much tougher situations. Me feeling sorry for myself is not going to get me anywhere.

I spent the night in Waterford after a successful operation, and before I left the next morning I was given my ‘homework’ for the next four weeks. The physio had set me a rehab programme, and I was looking forward to getting started. Now that the operation had taken place, and the injury had been repaired, I was anxious to push on with my recovery.

Even having had the same surgery before, there were one or two things I had forgotten about the aftermath. Not being able to lift your leg in the days after the operation is incredibly frustrating. Try as I might, or curse as loudly as I could (and I often did both together) my leg refused to budge.

I iced the knee on an almost constant basis in an effort to reduce the swelling, and as the days wore on, I began to see small, gradual improvements. These improvements would have been almost unnoticeable to an onlooker, but I could feel slight gains, and it was something that gave me encouragement. The road to recovery will take many months, but finally I felt like I was taking little steps in the right direction.

I will be forever grateful to my employers, AIB, for their understanding and patience. I spent weeks out of work before and after the surgery, and I welcomed the return to a routine when I came back to work.

Cabin fever had certainly begun to set in, in the week after the operation.  Home and Away was my staple diet for that time off, but when I started to watch the same episode twice a day, I knew I was on a slippery slope. I am proud to say that I never tuned in to watch Jeremy Kyle or Dr. Phil, but it wasn’t long until I hit rock bottom; Telly Bingo. It wasn’t long after this that I felt it was time to get back to work.

On a serious note, the time spent out or work made me realise how tough it can be for people out there who are out of work, and don’t have a regular routine. I found the days long at times, and I can see how having so much time on your hands can become a negative thing. I tried my best to keep as busy as possible, but it wasn’t always easy.

I found missing out on the opening rounds of Championship with the club tough. Over the past few years, I seem to have missed as many club games through injury as I have played. You feel helpless on the sideline – at least when you are in the thick of the action you can try and have an influence on the game.

For now though, it’s all about the little steps. Progress is slow, but knowing I am moving forward again is heartening. It helps me to stay positive. I am due to start more intense rehab with Cork physio Colin Lane this week, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Onwards and upwards. A little step at a time.