Six months on and Conal Keaney is thankful for big mercies.
He’s standing in a room in Croke Park talking about a possible return to hurling with Dublin. For a few days last summer, it was a place he never thought he’d be.
On the Friday morning before Dublin’s ground-breaking All-Ireland hurling quarter-final against Limerick, he was riding his motorbike to work out in Blessington — where he is marketing manager for the Avon Ri hotel — when he was in a collision with a van that was turning off the road ahead of him at a dangerous junction in Bohernabreena.
It demanded fast action from Keaney to jump from his bike and avoid further impact, but the sudden change of direction did substantial damage to the cruciate and lateral ligaments in his left knee, and the weekend was spent in hospital watching his team-mates break barriers to reach an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time in 63 years.
Over the next few days, Keaney wondered to himself if he would ever hurl or play football again, with the initial analysis that he had suffered a serious break in his right foot hanging over him.
But for Keaney, getting perspective is easy. He considers himself lucky to have survived, much more than unfortunate to be in the accident in the first place.
“That’s the way I look at it all of the time. Another lad was knocked off his bike that weekend and he happened to lose his life. I’m just grateful to get back to where I am at the moment, and if I see some action again, it’ll be great,” he says.
“It’s great to be involved with Dublin. When I was lying in the hospital, I didn’t think I’d ever get to put on a Dublin jersey again, so hopefully I’m getting a little bit nearer to that now.”
Full diagnosis of his injuries brought a much clearer picture.
“Initially, they told me my foot was broken and my cruciate was grand. Then it did a total flip when I went to Santry Sports Clinic and it wasn’t broken. It was my knee where the damage was,” he recalls.
Rupturing both his ligaments compounded his problems, and he acknowledges the gravity of the injuries.
“It was a cruciate and a lateral ligament, which not many people do. It’s funny that Stephen (Hiney) and myself have the same injury,” says Keaney. “It is very serious. I always try and put the best foot forward, but, in the back of my mind, I know it’s a very serious injury.”
His manager Anthony Daly has earmarked a return at the end of June for him and Tomas Brady, but Keaney is less certain about the time-frame.
“I still don’t know. There are certain procedures you have to go through and steps and boxes you have to tick and I’m doing that. It’s very hard when I have no goal at the end of it or date to come back. I’m just working away. It’s nearly the end of January now and I didn’t think I would even get here,” he says.
“It’s a long Christmas trying to get to the gym six or seven days a week. It’s tough going. I’m getting there, but I don’t know where that day is going to come yet when I can go back playing.
“I’m really looking forward to getting a bit more stuff under my belt, start running and start zig-zagging and changing directions.
“I’m happy to be even doing this at the moment. I’m just being very cautious and making sure I do everything right so that when I do come back, I’m back 100pc.”
On the subject of potential regularised payments to managers, Keaney tweeted last week that the role of bosses may be over-rated.
“Managers getting paid — there would be no game without players,” he wrote.
But yesterday he acknowledged that managers and players are both putting in a lot of time.
“There’s a lot going around about it in the media at the moment and it probably needs a lot of discussion,” he said.
“Players and managers are both putting in a lot of effort, more nowadays than they had previously. There are a lot of hours being put in. It’s probably something that needs to be looked at, but it’s not going to be any of the players that make the decision. It’s going to be in Croke Park where the decision is made.”
– Colm Keys, Irish Independent