Saturday 17 November 2018

Hero McGrath brings curtain down on long Wicklow career

Full recovery: Getting back playing football was John McGrath’s priority after his leukaemia diagnosis. Photo: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile
Full recovery: Getting back playing football was John McGrath’s priority after his leukaemia diagnosis. Photo: Sam Barnes / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Long-serving Wicklow footballer John McGrath has called time on his inter-county career.

McGrath, who featured in the county's Leinster Championship games against Offaly and Dublin in May, will not be returning for a 13th season.

The length of McGrath's career is all the more remarkable given the leukaemia diagnosis he received in 2011, hospitalising him for over three months as he underwent intense chemotherapy.

McGrath had been in prolific form in the early stages of the 2011 league but felt unwell during their home match with London. Within days he was in St James Hospital undergoing treatment.

To overcome that and regain his place on an inter-county squad was a challenge he set and succeeded in doing, rejoining the squad in 2012 and remaining part of it until this summer.

"The time is right for me," said the 31-year-old of his decision to step away now.

"I was only 50/50 to go back this year anyway but there are a few things now which make it that bit harder," he added.

On his recovery from illness and return to inter-county football, he admits that, with hindsight, it's something to be proud of now.

"It's only when you speak to someone who doesn't have that luxury of making a full recovery that you appreciate it all the more.

"I'd speak to quite a few people in similar positions and it's when you hear their bad news that your respect and acknowledge the journey you've come yourself," he said.

"When I was diagnosed, getting back playing football was my number one priority. That may sound foolish but when you're in a bubble it's only when you're faced with the prospect of not getting back playing that you realise how much you like it and miss it. I just couldn't face not getting back. When you're lying in bed day after day, all you are thinking of is getting back doing something good"

McGrath got back playing with his club Baltinglass towards the latter end of the 2011 championship.

He accepts that playing inter-county football with Wicklow "isn't always easy" but something he has always enjoyed.

"It's not just about the sunshine. I always enjoyed the training in any conditions and you miss that whether you are winning or not."

Irish Independent

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