Bergin making progress but may miss League opener
OFFALY hurler Joe Bergin has taken time out to rehab a persistent back injury which has troubled him for the last two years.
Bergin, captain of the Faithful County last year, won't rush back to action before he and his physio team are satisfied he is fully ready for another hectic season.
That means that the Seir Kieran clubman will miss Sunday's tantalising Walsh Cup semi-final against Galway at Tullamore, but he's happy to be making progress.
Bergin (27) has played for the last two seasons with this back issue nagging away at him. Luckily, it turned out to be a musculo-skeletal problem rather than a disc problem that might have required surgery.
A course of treatment has been undertaken under the guidance of the Offaly physiotherapist team headed by Cian McDonnell and is yielding positive results.
"I'm recovering. I was out for a while with a back injury, a persistent back injury that's been there for most of the last two years.
"It wasn't serious but it was holding me back. I couldn't give of my best, so I decided before we started at all this year that I was going to get it right.
"It was more muscular than anything else. It was a kind of weakness in my lower back and in my core.
"It was a strange kind of injury, more from wear and tear and just overuse, and my back kind of seized up in a way. I lost mobility and my muscles seemed to shrink a bit. I had to do a lot of gym work to build it all up again.
"Thankfully, it's been going well and I'm not far off being back," said Bergin.
Manager Brian Whelahan has named Kilcormac-Killoughey's Dan Currams as skipper for 2015, and that's not a problem for Bergin, whose main focus is on returning to action as soon as possible.
Sunday's clash with Galway is one he will miss, and even Offaly's first league game, against Laois on February 14, may come too soon for him.
"I want to get it as close to 100 per cent as I possibly can because once the matches start, you've very little time to get something right that might be troubling you.
"I've very little fitness work done. The lads would be well ahead of me so I'd say that's what would be holding me back.
"I've done nothing really over the Christmas period. I was doing my own work on it and I don't want to undo that by coming back too soon. I have to get the timing right.
"The way the game is now, you have to be a hundred per cent. If you're not, you're only fooling yourself," added Bergin.
A senior player since 2006, Bergin has soldiered through many lean times for the Faithful County. He does, however, retain an enduring optimism and believes the spirit in the camp is good ahead of the Galway game at Tullamore.
Bergin watched from the stand as Whelahan's men overcame Westmeath away in their opening Walsh Cup fixture last Sunday week and was pleased with the display.
"I thought the boys started well. I was very impressed with the work rate and the attitude was spot on.
"They did enough in the first half, probably fell asleep a bit in the second half, and some old habits crept back in, but overall, definitely positive for the first game," he said.
Galway, albeit this early in the season and with a degree of experimentation by both counties, will provide a lively test for Offaly.
Last year the Tribesmen won the corresponding match by a point, and another close contest is likely.
"We're looking forward to it. It's the next step forward," said Bergin.