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'Hard work' pays off for Brady with return to the fold

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Jim Gavin. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin. Picture: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

WEARING his blue-tinted glasses, Tomás Brady won't have relished the sight of Colm O'Neill swinging over Cork's final point ... but as a fellow member of the MCC (Multiple Cruciate Club), his heart may have skipped a beat faster.

You see, Cork's prodigiously gifted and outrageously unlucky former All Star wasn't the only footballer on the comeback trail last Saturday night.

O'Neill marked his first inter-county appearance since suffering his third cruciate injury, almost 12 months ago, with two exquisite points during a 20-minute cameo. While all this was happening, Brady remained an unused Dublin sub – but even his appearance on the match programme, wearing 17, was a significant signpost on the road to relaunching his football career.

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The Na Fianna man ruptured his ACL while training with the Dubs last June, soon after their Leinster opener against Westmeath (when he wasn't on the match-day panel). It was a painfully familiar sensation for Brady, who suffered a similar injury while playing for the Dublin hurlers against Galway two summers previously.

On that occasion, he recovered for the following year's ill-starred SHC campaign only for Anthony Daly to lose his full-back powerhouse to big ball's embrace in 2013. While it proved a difficult enough transition – he auditioned in defence during the O'Byrne Cup before starting three league games at centre-forward – we never got a chance to see if Brady could establish more permanent summer tenure.

Now, though, he's back chomping at the bit. "His first (match-squad role) since the league final last year," Jim Gavin (below) confirmed. "That was the last time he was with us in Croke Park. Yeah, it's great for Tomás, he's put in so much hard work."

The Dublin boss then name-checked O'Neill before adding: "Those two guys have obviously put in the hard work, and the self-sacrifice and determination outside of the public eye that we don't see."

Brian Cuthbert, for his part, seemed even more chuffed at O'Neill's successful comeback than the two league points he helped to procure.

"I was a selector last year and I was in the dressing-room at half-time against Donegal when he was inconsolable because he knew himself that the ACL was gone," the Cork manager recalled.

"And I suppose I have seen him at close quarters for the past three-and-a-half months in rehab.

"I spoke to his mom and dad afterwards and they're on tenterhooks every time he goes out now. But at the same time, today should give him huge confidence because he won the game for us really."

The manner in which O'Neill took his second point was especially encouraging. His shadow, Philly McMahon, appeared to have done everything by the book – and still he couldn't repel the 2012 All Star as, in one seamless movement, he jinked sharply in from the touchline and nailed his kick from a tight angle off his trusty left.

"He's after doing that move umpteen times with the physio," Cuthbert explained. "But when it does matter in a game like today, he has the ability and the confidence to back himself and do it."


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