Dublin star on 'making his debut again' after recovering from savage unprovoked attack
Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30
There were times when Ryan O'Dwyer thought about packing it all in. When the road back to inter-county hurling seemed too long and too steep.
He didn't like the idea of backing down from a challenge but suffering a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain has a way of redefining priorities.
And if O'Dywer had walked away after suffering horrific injuries in an unprovoked attack in Birmingham back in October, it would have been perfectly understandable. But he kept toiling and kept working.
And on Saturday night he made his return to competitive action for Dublin, having only returned to contact training a month ago.
"Doing the running was very hard because I could see the lads training and I was just getting p*ssed off," explains O'Dwyer.
"I went through every emotion there was to go through because at times you'd be like 'yeah don't worry I'll be back' and then other times it was like 'f*ck it I'm not going to get back'.
"At times I was ready to throw in the towel but the support I had from my team-mates, like they'd be coming over for a water break and they'd be going 'that's it Ryan well done'.
"The support I've got off the management has just been phenomenal and I'm just happy to be involved with such a group of players.
"Since I have come back training I've just been trying my best to contribute and to build the confidence of the lads around me. Just trying my best and if lads see you coming back from what I came back from and trying your best, hopefully they'll feed off it.
"It was great to get back on the pitch, it was like going out making my debut again. It felt special. . . pity the weather wasn't a bit better.
"Ken Robinson was there and anyone in the injured group would've been there doing a bit of running with me. The doctors set targets for me, and me being stubborn I set my own targets and I even exceeded them, you know.
"I don't think there's any words to describe how I feel just to get back on the pitch, that was a goal for me and now just to go on from that.
"I just need to get sharp now - apart from the two club games that's the first bit of hurling I've had this year, so yeah it's great to get back."
O'Dwyer replaced Darragh O'Connell with 15 minutes to play as Dublin cruised past a surprisingly weak Wexford challenge. And as luck would have it, O'Dwyer shipped a heavy blow to the head late in the game.
"It's good to get them and see that I can actually take it, it was a bang on the head and they took me off but the match was over," he recalls.
"If there had been 10 minutes left I'd have stayed on but it was a precaution. As I walked off Anthony Daly was there 'ah you're f**king soft'.
"It's just good to get back. The people that I've been surrounded by the past couple of months, whether it's team-mates, management, physios or family, they've all been so positive, even when I was at my worst, like my personality totally changed (during the recovery), I was horrible. I was agitated.
"Thank God the doctor said that this is a side-effect, I'd be irritable, I'd be aggressive. My family stuck with me, and especially my fiancee Cliona, without her I wouldn't be where I am today."
Dublin and O'Dwyer now steel themselves for Kilkenny.
"Every year that's who everyone sets their standard against, it's going to be a massive task but all we can do is give 100pc," he says.
"I'm sure if you talk to the public there'll be loads of talk 'Kilkenny this, Kilkenny that' but all we can do is look after ourselves."