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Monday 18 December 2017

GAA player was 'inches from death' after on-field collision

Vinny O'Sullivan pictured after his injury
Vinny O'Sullivan pictured after his injury
Vinny playing for Ireland at Aussie rules
Vinny with his wife Breeda and one-year-old son Michael

Graham Clifford in London

HE was inches from death. Footballer Vinny O'Sullivan will never play GAA again, but he feels blessed to be alive after a sickening on-pitch collision that cracked his vertebrae.

His team had just won back-to-back county titles, but for the 35-year-old Kerryman staying alive was the sole objective. He lay on the sideline unable to see his teammates as they celebrated.

"I could hear them being presented with the cup and celebrating but I physically couldn't lift my head to see them," he said.

He had sustained a life-threatening injury -- and the matter of just a few inches would mean the difference between life and death.

A few minutes earlier, Mr O'Sullivan had been bursting out of defence for his English team Glen Rovers as they sought to retain the Hertfordshire county title. An opponent from St Colmcille's ran into the Waterville man, forcing his head in under his shoulder blade.

The injury appeared innocuous and Mr O'Sullivan wanted to continue playing -- before he blacked out. He had cracked the C7 vertebra in his neck and the threat of paralysis or worse was very real.

He was taken to Watford General Hospital -- but after X-rays was rushed to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London.

A few days later surgeons fused two of his vertebrae together and inserted a metal plate and screws into his neck.

"I'll never regain full movement in my neck," Mr O'Sullivan said, speaking from his home in Kingsbury, North London, a month after the injury.


"But it was only after speaking to the doctors that I realised how fortunate I was. Had I cracked my C1, 2 or 3 vertebrae, I would have died. Cracking C7 could have resulted in paralysis but I was lucky."

Mr O'Sullivan had convinced his wife Breeda to attend the game with their one-year-old son Michael.

"Obviously it was hard for her but she's a great support to me. One of the hardest things now is I won't be able to lift my son for a while. The doctors ruled out heavy lifting," he said.

And that means the self-employed shuttering carpenter can't earn a wage for the next six months at least.

Tomorrow, the former Waterville, Parnells and London county player will be guest of honour at a fundraising auction night at Ruislip GAA grounds, with GAA legend and family friend Mick O'Dwyer in attendance.

Then on Sunday, more than 100 players will compete in the International Kanga football tournament in Clapham.

Sadly, though, his playing days are over.

"The doctors told me I can never play a contact sport again," he said. "I know it will be difficult. I loved playing, training, the argy-bargy of competition, everything about it. But I know I can never do that again."

Irish Independent

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