Thursday 23 March 2017

O'Rourke leaves door open for Royal return

A fit Shane O’Rourke would give Meath’s championship ambitions a big boost. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
A fit Shane O’Rourke would give Meath’s championship ambitions a big boost. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The mind is more than willing but for Shane O'Rourke, the question is will the body allow it?

O'Rourke has been dogged by hip problems throughout his career and in the process, Meath have been robbed of one of the biggest talents they have produced of late.

He made his debut for the Royal County as a 19-year-old back in 2007. Meath reached the All-Ireland semi-final that year and it looked like he could help form the core of another strong Royal County side.

Instead, injury has been his lot. Initially the problem was thought to be linked to his groins before his hip was identified as the issue. After 2011 he was forced to walk away from Meath indefinitely and it was a full three years before he played in the championship.

But that didn't work out either and this year followed a familiar pattern as he worked his way back from a third hip operation.

His displays for Simonstown this year, and particularly in last Sunday's county final, were a reminder of what he can do. So perhaps its understandable that he was reluctant to close the door on a return with Meath.

"Look, we'll celebrate this win first," was his reply when asked if he could consider joining Andy McEntee's squad for 2017.

"It's been a long time coming and I'll worry about that a couple of weeks down the road. We'll enjoy this."

O'Rourke has to prepare his own way. The surgeries mean certain things are out of the question.

"I'm not too bad. I have a training schedule I have to monitor very closely. I can't do what everyone else does, I have had three hip surgeries in the last three years, they are deteriorating quickly but days like this make it all worthwhile."

"They are probably getting worse as time goes on but it held up well this year. Days like this you don't mind putting up with a bit of pain." 

A taste of success will do little to quell his desire for more football.

"It's an incredible feeling. I have won feck all in my life and you hear people saying 'it hasn't sunk in' and this one won't sink in for ages.

"It's hard to believe we have finally done it. We worked so hard.

"There are times over the years when we got to finals 11 or 12 years ago but we didn't think we'd ever get back to one."

O'Rourke and Simonstown will have to tackle the Leinster Club SFC next. And it hasn't been happy hunting ground for Meath champions.

Teams from the Royal County have won out in Leinster just four times since the start of the competition, with the last one coming back in 2002. And Simonstown face Offaly kingpins Rhode, who have reached the final four times in the last decade.

COMPETITIVE

"We haven't given it a moment's thought, it's a cliché but we genuinely haven't looked past (the Meath Championship)," O'Rourke explained. "We are going to have a good couple of days there's no doubt about it.

"We're a competitive bunch of lads, an ambitious bunch of lads, we'd like to be able to give a good impression in Leinster of Meath football.

"We'd like to go one better than maybe a lot of clubs in Meath have managed over the last few years and I think we have the ability to do that.

"We'll enjoy this and then at the end of the week we'll get back together and I know the way a lot of these lads are.

"They'll want to give a good account of themselves. They won't be happy just to win this and show up."

The may have to tackle Pascal Kellaghan's side without AFL-bound Conor Nash, who is set to fly out to Australia to take up his contract with Hawthorn two days after the Rhode game.

And O'Rourke isn't so sure Nash will follow the path of many Irish exports to the AFL and return here within a couple of years.

"He's so talented he could have had a career playing rugby also. We are blessed to have him, he has made some impact for us and we probably wouldn't be here without him.

"He's a hugely talented guy, very mature for his age and he has the world at his feet.

"I think he has a serious chance of making it in Australia, I hope he does. We wish him all the best."

Irish Independent

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