'I've had three ankle surgeries, a splenectomy, a collapsed lung and a ruptured bowel' - Carlow star on injury woes
Broderick delighted to be centre stage after years on the sidelines, writes Ciarán Gallagher
Cataloguing his list of injuries, it might be easy to mistake Paul Broderick as a war veteran. The Carlow forward has been in red-hot form of late, shooting 1-19 between the Barrowsiders' wins over Louth and Kildare to book a Leinster SFC semi-final date against Laois this weekend.
However, there have been a number of injury battles for the 31-year-old Tinryland clubman, who was ruled out of inter-county action for much of his twenties, including manager Turlough O'Brien's first two years in charge.
"I suppose it's nearly like a running joke among the boys in the dressing room," laughed Broderick. "Of Turlo's first two years, I probably played two-three games."
The talented marksman recounted that he has undergone 10 football-related surgeries since he was 18. "I've had knee, three ankle surgeries, I had a splenectomy, a collapsed lung, a ruptured bowel. I've just been unlucky," said the free-taker, who has seemingly mastered understatement in the same way he has a size-five O'Neill's.
A ruptured spleen, which sidelined him for nine months, was a low point.
"Ah, the worst was the spleen, without a doubt," he explained. "It was (during) a friendly game when I was 18… a couple of weeks out from my Leaving Cert.
"I came on at half-time. Five minutes later, an innocuous type of elbow and I was down on the ground, winded."
A friend, and occupational therapist, Shane O'Neill, immediately called for Broderick to be brought to a doctor. "I went to a doctor and he said to me, 'You're not co-operating', but, literally, I couldn't move…
"So, they sent me to Kilkenny (hospital) and you can imagine - a Sunday when you're 18 and I wouldn't have been the most academic - I was happy enough with getting the Monday off.
"I was in the X-ray room and I collapsed, and they said, 'Ah yeah, best keep you in'. It was four o'clock in the morning that Sunday, I went for surgery.
"I went for surgery with the spleen, I was a week then not getting any better, so they opened me up again and figured that my bowel was perforated. And then during that surgery my lung collapsed."
Somehow seeing the plus side, Broderick claims the freak injury - and subsequent surgical complications - aided his education. "I ended up missing the Leaving Cert, but as it turned out… the next year I went to a school and I'd no real friends there, repeating, so I knuckled down, and it was a better Leaving Cert than I ever would have done."
Ankle and knee injuries also derailed Broderick's career, with two different ankle problems picked up during a League game against Antrim both leading to more surgery.
"A lot of it has to do with the management of training load. If I look back on what I was trying to do then, I was trying to do something nearly every day," he explained. "Whereas I nearly feel (now), if I'm fit enough I'm better to take a fresh approach to it. I didn't train the Thursday before the Louth or Kildare games and the lads are A-okay with it.
"There's a trust there… at my age you do know (your body) well enough. It's not as if I'm not turning up to a training."
Now 31, Broderick admitted: "I was coming to the age… I was kind of like, 'Jesus, is it worth it?' Because you're committing a lot of time. Obviously I'm delighted now that I've stuck with it. Not that we've won anything, but from where we've come from to what we're doing, it's huge."
Crediting his family for helping him through his injury horrors, Broderick points to O'Brien and his backroom team for Carlow's recent upturn in fortunes.
Emphasising that coach Steven Poacher has continually worked on the basic skills of the game, Broderick claims refined kicking-practice methods have improved his own dead-ball accuracy.
The free-taker nailed all nine of his kicks, and 11 points in total, against Kildare on a day Carlow did not register one wide. "It's not that I do less (practice), but what I do now I do better than I probably did before," he explained. "Turlo gave me this routine about four years ago, and it never involves kicking more than 30 balls at a time… Whereas before I was just going out with 10 balls and kicking them until maybe my legs fell off, twice a week."
Another big difference has been O'Brien's approach to empowering players as the manager has spurned common inter-county trends such as alcohol or media bans for his panel. Having previously been involved in implanting drink bans himself at club level, Broderick said: "When I look back on that behaviour, I kind of cringe. It was the wrong way to go about it.
"At the time I thought I was doing the right thing… But all it means is if a lad needed to blow off some steam, he was going somewhere else to do it."
Working as a secondary-school teacher in Laois, Broderick will be keen to get one over Carlow's neighbours this weekend having lost twice to the O'Moore men in the league. "There is good banter, though both teams want to win. It's going to be hell for leather," he said. "There is huge crossover. From Carlow town, my house, I could be what in what is considered Co Laois in five minutes," continued the Tinryland man.
"The attention is great for Carlow - and I'm not going to say no to it. For long enough you wouldn't have any of it.
"The injuries I've come from, I want to go as long as I can, regardless of what's going on. For Carlow, who knows? We're playing a team next we've lost twice to (this season), but if someone is beating you, you want to overturn it. And I don't think too much past Sunday."
Still, there is a temptation to look ahead to a potential Leinster SFC final date against the All-Ireland champions.
"Dublin are streets ahead, but the prospect of Carlow playing in a Leinster final, marching behind the band… I know what we'd be up against - and not being disrespectful to Longford or looking past Laois - but it's a great carrot."