Wednesday 17 July 2019

'I hit the ground a second time – lights out. Next thing I woke up and there were four doctors and two paramedics looking down on top of me'

Meath hurling captain Geraghty has gone from ruptured spleen to verge of Croke Park silverware

Meath hurling captain Seán Geraghty wearing his Evoshield spleen shield at Croke Park this week. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Meath hurling captain Seán Geraghty wearing his Evoshield spleen shield at Croke Park this week. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

When Seán Geraghty was handed the honour of captaining the Meath senior hurlers, little did he realise he would be lying in a hospital bed scrambling for updates on their first National League game a week later.

What started as an innocuous shoulder when attempting to rise a ball would turn into "agony", but a visit to Our Lady's Hospital in Navan would give him the all-clear to head home before returning for a routine scan the next day.

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Geraghty only made it to the exit door, however, when he hit the ground and conked out for a second time. He was quickly bumped up the queue and immediately sent to the Mater to be assessed.

Before he knew it, he woke up surrounded by white coats. His spleen had been "split in two" but the assistance of Meath legend Gerry McEntee had allowed him to save the important organ.

The spleen acts as a human antibiotic which produces white blood cells to fight off infections, and while you can survive without it no one had kept theirs intact after the severity of an injury like his.

Much like a hamstring injury, damage to your spleen is rated from one to five, with Geraghty's the worst of its kind - "it was just hanging off the end" - but years of physical fitness encouraged doctors to try to save it.

Meath hurling team captain Sean Geraghty pictured with his Spleen shield. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Meath hurling team captain Sean Geraghty pictured with his Spleen shield. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

"I was walking out of the hospital when I turned and hit the ground a second time - lights out. Next thing I woke up and there were four doctors and two paramedics looking down on top of me," Geraghty recalls.

"My first thought was that, 'They're not here to tell me I'll be playing league next weekend', and as it turned out I would become the new medical case study because the spleen is always taken out with a Grade 5.

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"So I'm like the guinea pig that they'll be going off for years to come. You hear about some jockeys getting the spleen out when it's damaged after a fall because the recovery is quicker if you get it out.

"It's only a month's recovery, whereas if you let it knit back together like I had to, it can take two to three months. I'm lucky they could save it. If I'd gotten it out, I'd be on antibiotics the rest of my life.

"If I was going to Spain or somewhere with a change in climate, I'd have to get vitamin shots because my body wouldn't produce the vitamins to survive in that environment.

"I was chatting to a fella who has it out and he said his energy levels fluctuate. The biggest thing is your recovery. Your cardiovascular capacity is greatly reduced so in that case I was very lucky.

"I saw an ad there on TV recently where they said, 'I'd give my spleen for it', and I was kind of like, 'Jesus, you might want to think about that again'. But if you want to know anything about spleens, I'm your man."

The Kilskyre/Moylagh defender was getting all sorts of funny looks from nurses when delivering the first speech to his Royal team-mates via a WhatsApp voice note - his team tackling Mayo in Tooreen while he was still laid up.

The first few weeks were the toughest as engaging your core affects the healing process - "going to the bathroom was the only time I was on my feet" - and he was forced to watch from the sidelines and sit out the entire league campaign. With all his targets met, the 26-year-old made a return in April and use of an Evoshield body protector - which moulds around his chest and is covered by his under armour - gives him the added safety needed.

The hospital visits to assess his recovery are becoming less frequent - he recently signed over his file for publication - and the Oldcastle NS primary school teacher is happy to be back in the swing of things.

Few were predicting that he would be in a position to lead Meath into today's Christy Ring Cup final but he has been an ever-present throughout an impressive campaign which has seen them unbeaten in four games thus far.

Relegation

Down await at Croke Park for Nick Fitzgerald's side with Geraghty keen to make up for lost ground after Joe McDonagh Cup relegation last season.

"You really appreciate just being back training. When you're in the bubble it's all about the next game and the next training session and when it's taken away from you, you don't know what to do with yourself," he says. "Last year we just weren't up to it, Antrim beat us well in the first round and Westmeath did the same in the second. When you get a bad start, you've no momentum.

"As a team, it's probably nice to be back in the Christy Ring and resetting. We've good young lads in. It was disappointing to go down but we need to become more consistent. On our day we can challenge teams in the Joe McDonagh but then we can follow that up with a no-show.

"For the numbers we have, we need to get back up to the Joe McDonagh and start challenging again."

Geraghty appreciates the role the current crop play in ensuring the healthy future of hurling in the county and has no intention of letting the side down in the game's biggest arena.

"There is an appetite there with kids in the county but that appetite will only stay there if the county team is doing well. Soccer and rugby are here to stay in places like Meath and Kildare now so it's a different dynamic now," he explains.

"Hurling is nearly the fourth sport in Meath so they need to see the county team getting to Croke Park and hopefully lifting silverware. We need to keep our end of the bargain now for the game within the county to grow, we're being looked after as well as the footballers so it's up to us to deliver now."

Considering he could barely climb out of bed a few months ago, it would be some achievement for Geraghty to climb the steps of the Hogan Stand today.

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