Monday 23 September 2019

Healy happy to take to the skies again as the 'Town' eye Leinster honours

Cahir Healy battles for possession with Robbie McDaid of Ballyboden St Enda’s in the 2015 Leinster Club SFC final. Photo: Sportsfile
Cahir Healy battles for possession with Robbie McDaid of Ballyboden St Enda’s in the 2015 Leinster Club SFC final. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Vigilant staff at Heathrow Airport would have noticed a familiar face missing every Friday and Sunday as Cahir Healy went through the excruciating rehab following cruciate knee ligament surgery.

Healy has built up impressive frequent flyer mileage returning from his London base to represent Laois and Portlaoise since he made the move eight years ago but suddenly, the 31-year-old was ground to a halt.

Having suffered the injury in July 2017, only the odd wedding saw him make the trip across the Irish Sea - he subsequently lost the benefits of lounge access and priority boarding - as he faced a lonely battle back to fitness.

Working in Marshgate Primary School in Richmond (south-west London) where he teaches Year 3 - the equivalent of second class - the former O'Moore dual star was actually glad to be away from home during it all.

While Healy was missing out on the home comforts which Stephen 'Picky' Maher could avail of in the Laois set-up after suffering the injury at a similar time, it was a blessing in disguise to avoid the constant reminders of injury and he could recover on his own terms.

"When you're going up to the field every night and you're standing on the sideline, that can get old fairly quick. I wrote off the 2018 Laois season in my head so I wasn't pining to be in there as much as normal," Healy says.

"It's over, it's gone so don't be worrying about it. If I was at home I would've been going to watch Laois and going into training. It was probably a help to be away in that way and it was the same with the club championship.

"It was hard to miss championship games but I wasn't there all the time that I was being reminded every day that, 'You're injured, you're missing out' and I was away doing my own thing."

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It wasn't intentional but he let his hair grow during the rehab and he hasn't had a chop since last autumn but there were times when he felt like pulling it out with little progress evident.

"After three months you expect to be doing a bit of running and building it up whereas it was nearly four-and-a-half months before I could get up a jog without any pain," he outlines.

"I'd fallen a bit behind and at that time I was getting a bit down that it wasn't coming right the way it was and I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing plus probably a bit more and I still couldn't run.

"I'd start jogging and after ten metres my shin would be in agony and I'd be like, 'What is going on here? I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be' so I was getting frustrated.

"It was around that time that I just shut it down and said, 'I'm not going to look at the gym or do any rehab'. The physio even said, 'Do these two exercises a day so you don't get weak' and I told him to 'leave me alone, I'm not doing anything now this week'.

"I just needed to clear my head because I was mentally burnt out. That was the only bad period where I had a few doubts but other than that I could always see the progress."

With his last championship game for the 'Town' being their shock 2016 Laois SFC final loss to Stradbally when chasing ten in a row, Healy was "raring to go" for 2018 and returned nearly a year to the date of the injury.

Successive weekends of county final victories - they defeated The Harps in the SHC 'A' final and O'Dempseys in the SFC decider - were "the sweetest bar the first one I won".

Both were played on Sundays, however, so instead of soaking in the success, Healy was "getting into a bad mood" on the way to Dublin's Terminal 2 and taking to the skies.

Provincial success is always high on Portlaoise's agenda and Malachy McNulty's men start their search of Leinster honours tomorrow against old rivals Moorefield in Newbridge (1.30).

Win, lose or draw, Healy will be back next weekend as the 'Town' meet Offaly's Ballinamere in the Leinster IHC while he is planning for plenty more travel throughout 2019.

Inter-county commitment is a major feat given his circumstances and conversations have already been had with new hurling boss Eddie Brennan and football counterpart John Sugrue.

Training with Robert Emmets (hurling), Tír Chonaill Gaels (football) and a host of others in London keeps him sharp but most of the hard work is done alone and he's still undecided about what 2019 holds just yet.

"I'm very split down the middle over what to do. I want to hurl with Laois but I haven't played with the footballers in six or seven years," he says.

"I kind of have this feeling in my head that I need to go and prove myself. The last game I played with the footballers I was sent off in a league match and that's kind of gnawing at me. I'm kind of stuck in the middle but it's not really on my radar at the moment because it's all about the club now."

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