Eoin Larkin: I came close to calling it quits after injury setbacks
Eoin Larkin hit so many road blocks and pot-holes in 2015 that he considered quitting the inter-county game at one stage earlier in the season, he has admitted.
Larkin, the Irish Independent's man of the match who was winning an eighth All-Ireland medal last Sunday, sat out the League after undergoing groin surgery earlier in the year and was then laid low by glandular fever just as his recovery was gaining momentum.
It left him off work for two weeks at one stage and floored his energy levels to such an extent that he was sleeping for three to four hours a day.
But the resilience which saw him play on Sunday just five days after having the cast removed for a broken thumb carried him through those setbacks too and typified the spirit that now seems unbreakable in this squad, regardless of the personnel.
"I was close, there is no point in saying I wasn't," he revealed. "I was after having a frustrating start to the year with injury, then glandular fever.
"But winning another All-Ireland title makes it all worthwhile. That's why I made the decision to stick around. The reaction of all the players and management, that's what it's all about."
Larkin stressed he was never going to allow the thumb injury to rule him out of an 11th All-Ireland final appearance (including two replays).
A blow sustained from a collision with Michael Fennelly during a training weekend in Fota Island two weeks before the final resulted in a fracture.
"I was saying that if he (Michael) was training all year he would have got rid of the ball and I wouldn't have got near him to hook him," he laughed.
"I just went in to hook him, went in a bit far. I knew I was in trouble as soon as it happened. The key thing was that I had in my head that I wanted to play.
On The Sunday Game his former colleague Henry Shefflin highlighted Larkin's steadfastness in the face of yet another setback, and Larkin recalled the exchange, saying: "Henry texted me last week when he heard about the injury. He was wishing me all the best with the recovery, that's the type of lad he is. I just replied and said, 'it will take more than a broken thumb to keep me out of this All-Ireland'."
However, he denied telling the surgeon who dealt with him that he was going to take off the cast himself, even if it was against medical advice.
"The story was, he said, that lads have cut it off themselves and played. 'If you come out to me I'll cut it off and we'll have a look at it.' Thankfully it all worked out," said Larkin.
"It was only on for nine days. When it happened initially they put a back slab on it just to hold it there and I went out to see my surgeon on the Monday."
Taking the cast off so soon - the normal period for a break is three weeks - was stressful, he admitted, but he had to show considerable mental resolve to put it to the back of his mind.
"If I was going to let an injury come in the way of that I wouldn't have been focused on the game and it wouldn't have been fair on Brian (Cody) or the lads to do that.
"So I just had to put the injury to the back of my mind and try and train the way I could train."
Larkin feels that because of the injuries they suffered, especially in the last six weeks of the campaign, and the retirements at the end of last year, this latest win ranks very high among the eight the James Stephens man has won himself since 2006.
"They're all brilliant. But definitely with the year we had, with the retirements and injuries and all those setbacks, it adds up," he said.
Larkin has been widely credited for his contribution in the first half of Sunday's match when so many players weren't going well, and the indications are that he will remain on.
He says he will reserve judgement on his future with Kilkenny until later in the year, though, as he prepares for another tour of duty with the Irish Armed Forces, this time to Syria. He's due to leave in just under a month for peacekeeping duties and will miss much of next year's League campaign.
"It will be a change of scenery, something I have to do," he said. "I'll be based just off the Israeli border, about 20 miles off it."
Larkin has experience of overseas duty before having served in Kosovo for six months between 2007 and 2008, returning to win Hurler of the Year as he hit the form of his life.