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Fennell: I had to learn how to walk again

Fennel admits now he thought the hamstring injury might be the end of his playing days. Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Fennel admits now he thought the hamstring injury might be the end of his playing days. Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When he boils it all down, Eamonn Fennell reckons he squeezed about 20 seconds of football into two years.

Fennell is part of the St Vincent's squad that will take on Ballymun Kickhams in the Dublin SFC final in Parnell Park tonight (throw-in 7.0) but it's been a long road back for the former Dublin footballer.

Back in 2015, he tore his groin off the bone. After surgery and rehab, his attempted comeback last summer was over almost as soon as it began. This time, his hamstring came clean off the bone just seconds into a challenge game. Fennell needed another operation. This time, the ambition was much more modest than getting back to football.

"I came back from the hamstring and every thing was off," the 2011 All-Ireland winner recalled. "Walking again was tough. I was learning how to walk again in the pool because my stride was shorter because of the hamstring. Then my back started to flare up because I had a bulge in four of the discs.

"Everything started to flare up. Once one thing went off everything started to flare up so it was matter of getting the whole chain right."

Fennel admits now he thought the hamstring injury might be the end of his playing days.

"When I tore the groin I was kind of like 'I can come back from this' but when I tore the hamstring I was only in the game for 20 seconds and that set me back. (Paul) O'Connell did that at the same time - not to put myself on a par with O'Connell - but he has every resource available to him and the money to back it up and he's not coming back from it, whereas I was not involved with any county set-up.

"I was on crutches for two months and my knee was cocked back in a certain position so my hamstring was shortening. I was able to walk but to take a normal stride, I wasn't able to do that. So I needed to get a bit more of a stretch in the hamstring without tearing to off the bone again. It was tough enough, but walking in water and in the sea was all part of that."

Still, he prevailed. Walking in the pool progressed into a jog. Soon he was able to twist and turn and then kick again. Eventually he made his return against St Sylvester's earlier in this year's championship. And he's set to see action off the bench tonight.

And he's enjoying every minute.

"This year I've been able to take part in training and all of that. And to have my mam and dad in the stand watching the game, all that kind of stuff, it's been really enjoyable," he said.

"I know it's a bit of a cliche, but you're genuinely not worrying about making a championship final. Me just getting back on the pitch against Sylvesters was a massive turning point."

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