'My ear was competely severed, I was covered in blood and slurry'
Seventeen-year-old Neal McEnroe was spreading slurry on a field on the family farm in Co Cavan when he lost his ear in a freak accident.
It was a routine farm chore which he had expertly carried out on numerous occasions but on that day, just over a year ago, a series of unpredictable events left Neal spending that evening in the emergency ward of Cavan General Hospital.
The McEnroes run a pedigree Angus breeding enterprise at Maghera, just outside Virginia, and Neal, the youngest of Leo and Ann McEnroe's three sons, has been helping out on the family farm since he was a child.
He is the walking definition of a young and upcoming farmer and despite the accident, he intends to continue on his career path as planned.
On the day of the accident he was applying slurry to a portion of the farm which had just been sprayed. He was driving the tractor across an incline on the land when the slurry tank tilted suddenly and the tractor turned over.
Neal was shot through the tractor's sunroof but just as the machine was hitting the ground, he was shot back into the cab and out again through one of the tractor's doors. "It all happened in a split second. I knew if I went down with the tractor, I would have been in big trouble. But when I was shot back from the sunroof, my ear was completely severed and one of my fingers was broken. I was just covered in blood and slurry. The smell off me was awful," Neal recalled.
Neal was conscious and lying in the field when his cousin, Daire, who lives nearby, arrived on the scene and alerted the emergency services.
Daire had the presence of mind to search for and recover his cousin's severed ear. His dad, Leo, was also quickly on the scene and accompanied his son to hospital.
When his mother Ann later received a call from her sister-in-law to say Neal was in Cavan General, she admits she became hysterical.
The surgeons at Cavan General soon realised they couldn't re-attach Neal's ear because it was completely severed and they had no nerve ends or tendons to work, but they saved his finger.
Neal was back at home adjusting to life minus his ear a month later, studying for his Leaving Cert and playing full-back for Ramor United.
In the coming years he will require an operation for a prosthetic ear, which can take up to two years to complete.
But for now, he has taken up an apprenticeship as a mechanic with Virginia Transport, a company run by his uncle. He also intends to complete his Green Cert.
He is optimistic about his future. For Neal, the future is farming, machinery and Ramor United, of course. And you don't have to ask him twice about these three loves of his life.
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