Daniels delight at Deise return after injury nightmare
Waterford's Steven Daniels was "bursting with joy" when he arrived home on Sunday evening, having made his first Championship appearance in three years.
The 25-year-old finally made his competitive comeback from a serious knee injury sustained in April 2013.
Daniels had his kneecap smashed in a challenge match against Offaly and while he was told initially that he would be out for 6-8 months, complications with the patellar tendon delayed the recovery process.
Daniels recalled: "My previous championship appearance was the 2012 All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork. Nearly three years. Mental, isn't it?"
But the call arrived from manager Derek McGrath four minutes before half-time against Dublin last Sunday, when Daniels was brought on as sub after Noel Connors picked up a dead leg.
Daniels had played challenge matches against Limerick and Wexford but his Championship return was the moment he'd been waiting for.
"I was waiting for it all year. I was fit and back on the match-day panel for the League final against Cork but didn't get called on, and for the games against Cork and Tipp in the Munster championship," he said.
"I was waiting for the lads to make the shout. They took a chance on me and I'm very happy."
Daniels revealed that he has been icing his knee daily for the last two and a half years and yesterday, he walked the beach in Ardmore and had a dip in the sea.
"I had awful setbacks with the patellar tendon," he confirmed.
"The tendon was getting overloaded and the quad muscle wasn't firing properly. I had awful trouble with that and the rehab process will continue for as long as I'm playing hurling.
"I might have to take that little bit of extra recovery, a day or two more than the lads."
The De La Salle man admitted that there were difficult moments along the road but during the early months, he sought advice from Kilkenny's TJ Reid, who suffered a similar injury against Galway in 2012.
"There are times you look back and say 'how did you get there?' because there were doubts and wondering would it ever come right," Daniels said.
"I've iced this knee very night for two and a half years, just to give it that bit extra. Even if it makes one per cent of a difference, it's worth it."
Those long, torturous hours of rehab were certainly worthwhile on Sunday as Daniels trotted onto the Semple Stadium sod.
And he smiled: "I was bursting with joy inside. It really hit me when I got home and sat down later that night."