WEXFORD hurler Tomás Waters can finally see light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, but he has to tread carefully to ensure he leaves his injury and illness nightmare behind him.
Waters was the Wexford full-back left in a crumpled heap on the Thurles pitch last July in the dramatic qualifier which Clare won in extra-time to take a major step forward towards ultimate Liam MacCarthy success.
The player was in agony after tearing a cruciate ligament. Wexford's misfortune was compounded as referee Diarmuid Kirwan allowed play to carry on while Waters was on the deck and Clare got a couple of key scores.
So far, so bad, but even with the cruciate problem, Waters could not have envisaged the nightmare that lay ahead.
He had the knee operation in August, but subsequently infections set in which caused serious setbacks.
He has undergone five operations, spent almost 50 days in hospital and had his life turned upside down.
The infections were so serious that doctors were pumping antibiotics into his heart and he is shortly due to finish a routine of taking 15 tablets a day to clear the residue of the infections.
Just before Christmas, when he felt he was making good progress, Waters was hit with a bout of bronchitis, which, with his lowered immune system, was more serious than it might have been.
He has also had to deal with the pressure of owning a building business in which he employs three people at a time when he was physically incapable of carrying out his normal duties.
2013? Not a good year at all for Tomás, and that's an understatement, but the 26-year-old St Martin's clubman is optimistic about the future.
"It has been tough enough, but I'm getting back into the swing of things at work and just getting everything going back and getting my life back in order," he says.
"I've kicked on with a bit of rehab. Everything seems to be looking up now, thank God. 2014 is looking up."
"Both physios have said the knee is grand, considering everything I went through," he says.
"Stephen expected me to be coming in with no leg, because he'd heard about the five operations and nearly 50 days in hospital.
"But he said: 'you're not that far back'. The main thing was the muscle I had left, I hadn't lost that much. I'm still a long way back, but not as much as he expected.
"Please God the actual injury itself will be a distant memory and there'll be nothing wrong with the knee."
Waters admits to being 'humbled' by the support he has received from Model manager Liam Dunne and Wexford GAA in general.
He was also grateful to Brian Cody and Kilkenny for playing a pre-Christmas benefit match against Wexford for him.
"I'm self-employed, I'm a builder and I've three lads working for me. Everything I've ever done, I've done it for myself, so at first I didn't want the match, but I was very grateful for everything that was done," he says.
"I couldn't believe the turnout. It was great. I was honoured with all the support."
Tomorrow Wexford play Dublin in the Walsh Cup at Gorey and Waters will be there to check out the form of his team-mates.
He hopes to get back hurling in some form by April, and in the meantime is cautiously optimistic about Wexford's prospects for the season.
"There's a few good young fellas coming up, and lads that were in America last year are coming back into the panel.
"I can't wait to get back because I believe it's going to be good," he says. "I'm not saying we're going to be winning All-Irelands, but I believe we can kick on and be competitive – who knows after that?"