O'Hara on track to beat injury jinx
SLIGO star Eamonn O'Hara is on track to return for a staggering 19th season of inter-county football despite suffering a career-threatening knee injury last year.
The Tourlestrane man was one of a host of GAA players who suffered the dreaded cruciate knee ligament injury in 2011 and that pattern has continued into the new year with the news that promising Cork forward David Goold has been ruled out of action for the coming campaign with a similar injury.
But having turned 36 last September, there were fears O'Hara's career -- in which he won only a third Connacht title for the county in 2007, an All Star award and selection for the International Rules side -- had come to an end.
He picked up the injury to his right knee in a league game against St Mary's in July but has revealed that he has suffered no complications since his operation in September and -- barring complications -- is on course to rejoin Kevin Walsh's Sligo panel in the coming months.
"I had a few weeks of pre-hab before the operation and I have been doing my rehab after that; it has all gone to plan so far. It's not about setting a date or anything like that. Your body will tell you when it's right. I'm back doing a bit of straight-line running for a couple of weeks now and all has been fine. It feels rock solid.
"Sometimes you'll get a reminder from it saying, 'you've done too much', but it's just about managing it and knowing how far you can push it without going too far.
"The intention is to get it back to a place where you can play inter-county football. I'd love to be with the lads in New York (for their championship opener on May 6) but that's not a deadline either.
"Kevin Walsh is keen for me to get back involved, but we both want to get it 100pc right first and we'll know when we think it's right."
O'Hara suffered a similar injury to his left knee in action against Kildare in 2002 but recovered to full fitness.
"I don't remember the aftermath of that operation being as painful as this one," he admitted.
"I was told that if you do one knee, you're 20pc more likely to injure the other knee. Unfortunately, that's what happened last year, but apart from picking up a couple of hamstring pulls everything has gone along expected lines."
The shock return of Graham Geraghty, who made his championship bow in 1993, 12 months before O'Hara, meant the Meath man was the longest established footballer on the circuit last year.
However, with 18 consecutive seasons already under his belt, O'Hara is behind only Waterford's ageless Tony Browne in time served and after the retirements of Ciaran McManus and Brian Dooher, who made their debuts in 1996, he is way out on his own in football circles.
O'Hara is still key to Walsh's plans, having started both of their championship outings last year, but the 2002 All Star acknowledges that, with time running out on his inter-county career, he can't afford to suffer a setback in his recovery.
"I've been around long enough to know when you are able to go back and when you need to give it some time. I couldn't afford another six to 12 months out with injury. It would be just so hard to get back at that stage. So you just have to get it right this time. I'm really hungry to get back now."
GAA players suffered particularly badly with cruciate injuries last year but experts differ on the exact cause of the upsurge. However, after seeing four of their players suffer the injury inside 12 months, the St Patrick's club in Fermanagh banned its players from wearing blades after it was the only common denominator they could find between the four incidences.
Dublin captain Paul Griffin, Derry tyros Paddy and Eoin Bradley, Kerry midfielder David Moran, Kildare's Dermot Earley and Cork forwards Ciaran Sheehan and Colm O'Neill were just some of the other big names to miss large chunks of their 2011 campaign.