Tuesday 22 October 2019

Injury setbacks won't halt Powter's drive to fulfil boyhood dream

Cork’s Sean Powter has now torn his right hamstring on four occasions and his left once. Photo: Sportsfile
Cork’s Sean Powter has now torn his right hamstring on four occasions and his left once. Photo: Sportsfile

Marie Crowe

Seán Powter burst onto the Gaelic football scene just three years ago, a fresh-faced teenager embodying everything you would want from a footballer. Speed, strength, dynamism and skill, he was the perfect wing back, the type of player who could change a game with his attacking prowess and frustrate his man by never giving an inch.

Along with ability he had desire too. Less than 24 hours after his championship debut for Cork against Tipperary in June 2016, he was sitting the Leaving Cert maths paper. For Powter, football is everything.

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"All I ever wanted to do was play for Cork," he says. "I was at the All-Ireland final in 2010 and I remember thinking if I get in there and play for Cork I'll win an All-Ireland. A few years later Eamonn Ryan, the Cork selector, rang to ask me to join the panel and I thought it was one of my friends joking.

"I got off the phone, I was shaking and I couldn't believe it. I went to training the following Thursday and Paul Kerrigan scored about 1-4 off me and I thought 'I won't be here again'."

There was nothing for Powter to worry about. He made an immediate impression through his hard work, dedication and passion for representing his county.

After an impressive opening season for Cork he became a permanent fixture on the starting 15 and the following year was included in the Ireland squad for the international rules series in Australia, an honour made even more special by the fact that his dad is Australian. His star was rising, but little did Powter know that life was about to deal him a series of cruel blows.

In January 2018 he limped off during Cork's opening League game against Tipperary with a hamstring tear. He was devastated but determined to come back.

Despite his efforts his body had other ideas. It wouldn't allow him to get a consistent run at playing, and since then he's torn his right hamstring a further three times and his left on one occasion. The latest injury occurred just last month in a challenge game against Laois.

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"The first few times were ok, the fifth was the sucker punch, just because it was the other one, the left. I was always enthusiastic to get back for a certain date but this time I'm taking it slow and hoping if Cork get to the Super 8 that I will be back. If it goes again I will have to consider is it worth it. It's a seven-day recovery.

"I'm in the gym Monday, Tuesday Wednesday and Sunday and I swim the other days, it's all done by myself or with the physio.

"I've taken a step back from the panel this time. It's too hard to be patient with it when I'm inside looking out at the lads training. "I feel like I've got the right leg sorted now and I want to be sure to give the left the time it needs. Ronan McCarthy has been great, he is giving me as long as I need, he's in touch with me all the time and I know as soon as I'm ready I can go back in and join the panel."

Mentally it has been tough for Powter - the not knowing why it happened and also the constant worry about the future and the possibilities of the injury recurring.

There's an edge to the 21-year-old though, an inner steel that won't let him quit. His dream of getting back to the top of his game hasn't faded despite the hand he's been dealt. The Douglas man gets on with things the best way he knows, by working hard.

"I've never been to a sports psychologist, I've always turned to my family to deal with it. When it happens it's like someone died in the family, but after a couple of weeks I get into the rehab by setting goals and trying to achieve them.

"It's a lot of work to do by myself but I just try and get on with it. Munster's Johnny Holland has been a great help, he texts me regularly and encourages me to keep going, so does Brian Hurley too. They both know what it's like to get set-backs."

There's also the reasons why the same injury keeps happening to think about but Powter has never figured out the cause.

"I've tried to get to the bottom of it. I wonder about the 4G pitch although there is no evidence to suggest that was the cause. Personally I thought maybe it was that, but I'm not sure.

"I know some NFL teams are taking up their astro and putting down grass. When I see an astro I train very lightly and, if I can, I'll try not to train at all."

Powter concedes that football standards have fallen within the county in just a few short years but at no stage has he lost hope of one day emulating his heroes of 2010 and winning the Sam Maguire.

The UCC student has faith in the set-up in Cork, he welcomes the work that's being done within the county to build from the grassroots level but believes his team need to start winning if they want to bring the game back to where it should be.

"I know the talent is there but we can't seem to produce performances on a consistent basis. Two years ago against Mayo we should have beaten them but we had been atrocious against Kerry the week before. We need consistency and belief but that comes with winning. It's time for the younger players to step up and be leaders too."

"Division 3 is not where Cork football should be, it's tough to take the personal criticism but I just brush it off. For the younger players it has been hard on them especially. We feel a responsibility to fix things."

If a second tier competition came in Cork could very possibly be included and this is an extremely worrying prospect for the young footballer.

"I wouldn't be in favour of a two-tier competition at all. If you are from a county that's playing in it there wouldn't be that much drive to play in it, a lower division with no chance to compete for Sam Maguire is not appealing.

"I can see why people wouldn't want to play for Cork if we are in the second division, especially when there is a choice between hurling and football in Cork, the players who are good at hurling will more than likely pick that over playing football in a second tier competition

"In recent years I've seen some extremely talented players who don't want to commit because they want to do other things with their lives.

"Cork not going well doesn't help as they don't see it as an attractive prospect so if we weren't competing at the top we would definitely be without a lot of players.

"I also think when it comes to players who also play rugby, soccer and GAA and it will be impossible to keep those players in Gaelic football if we are down in the lower competition. Cork football is in a low place right now and it would just make it worse if we were down there."

On Saturday night Cork face Kerry in the Munster final, Powter will look on from the stands, watching and waiting has been his brief of late but he doesn't plan on doing that forever. His desire to play for Cork still burns strong, there's nothing he'd rather do.

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