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Mulhall hopes for final tonic after hospital drama

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Despite being forced to miss a second championship shot, Kildare's Darroch Mulhall has taken his setbacks in good humour. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Despite being forced to miss a second championship shot, Kildare's Darroch Mulhall has taken his setbacks in good humour. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Despite being forced to miss a second championship shot, Kildare's Darroch Mulhall has taken his setbacks in good humour. Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Picture the scene... You're on the cusp of your 23rd birthday and, after staking a serious claim during the natinal league, you're being widely tipped to make your Leinster SF championship debut in Croke Park.

Only nine days beforehand, you are suddenly bent over double with pain and spend the next five days in hospital.

That's what happened two and a half weeks ago to unfortunate Kildare forward Darroch Mulhall, who came down with acute appendicitis before their Leinster opener against Louth. He'd suffered some "grumbling pain" a few months ago but it came back with a vengeance.

When it had eased somewhat the next day (Sunday) he drove up to county training in Newbridge but, once team doctor Philip Aherne looked at him, the jig was up. Mulhall may have started all of Kildare's league games this year and scored 1-6 (3fs) against Dublin, but kicking inter-county ball gets you no special privileges in a packed Irish A&E.

It was more than seven hours before he was examined, he spent the first night on a trolley and didn't have the surgery until noon on Tuesday, despite fasting since Sunday morning. To add to his woes, he was due to start a new job on the factory floor of Newbridge chocolate manufacturer Lily O'Brien's that Monday.

Yet the rangy Athy forward is remarkably good humoured about all the setbacks.

"They kept me in until Thursday because the appendix was very toxic and they weren't sure if it had leaked," he explains.

It was his birthday the next day and two days later he was among Kildare's subs but in agony.

"It was horrible, I was still in a lot of pain but ah no, you couldn't not to go to Croke Park," he insists.

A week later, seven days after surgery, Mulhall rejoined Kildare training but only to do some light jogging. He's stepped it up a little notch every night since, but contact work is still out of the question.

"With scar tissue you could get a hernia so they've told me to take it very slowly but so far so good," he says cheerfully.

The medical emergency means Mulhall misses a second championship shot, but he's not ruling out his chances of making a Leinster final if the Lilies get past Meath on Sunday. The tattooed forward (he's got seven) certainly caught the eye in his year's Allianz League.

He hails from one of Kildare's burgeoning football nurseries and won five county titles (two minor, two U-21 and one senior) with Athy between 2008-2011. At the start of this year, there were eight Athy players on Jason Ryan's extended county panel and Mulhall, Mick Foley, David Hyland and Niall Kelly remain.

Kildare's panel also includes a handful each from Celbridge and Johnstownbridge in their dramatically altered football demographic, as illustrated by their starting team against Louth which incredibly didn't feature one player from Newbridge's 'Big Two' (Sarsfields and Moorefield).

MENTORS

Mulhall credits Athy's meteoric rise to people like local primary school teacher Tony Kennelly, underage mentors Colm Reynolds (father of Cian) and Con Ronan, and current senior management Mark Brophy and Paul Hicks.

"It's definitely about getting underage structures right too and there are some great people in the club who did that," he says.

Good genes always help. His father won an intermediate title with Castlemitchell in '92, his younger brother Killian (19) has already played county minor and Tadhg Fennin is a first cousin. Mulhall has also benefited from playing Sigerson Cup with IT Carlow.

He has just graduated in their second cohort of Sport & Exercise (with GAA) students and his college team-mates included Cork's Brian Hurley, Wexford's Ben Brosnan and Athy team-mates Cian Reynolds and Joe Kinihan. Yet Mulhall admits to fading out of county contention when he took the J1 route to America two summers ago.

"I had a great time but I was like a balloon when I came back," he quips, putting his new-found form down to "a kick up the arse and putting in a lot of effort with the club last year".

After a dramatic fortnight he's just glad to be back among his team-mates again and his new job, finally, starts next Monday.

"I am just going to have to play it by ear with the training," he says.

"Peter Kelly and Eoin Doyle are going to have to wait another while before they get to hit me again!"


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