‘Blood filled my eye and I couldn’t see out of it’ – Cork dual starlet Erika O’Shea relives freak Aussie Rules injury

Erika O'Shea of Cork in action during the TG4 LGFA All-Star exhibition match in Austin, Texas last month. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Frank Roche

Erika O’Shea has relived the freak injury that left her fearing she might permanently lose the sight in her left eye.

The dual ladies football and Aussie Rules player has rejoined the Cork squad that, in Mallow on Sunday, aims to defend its TG4 Munster SFC title against Kerry.

O’Shea intends to juggle both codes and both hemispheres for another two years at least, with plans to jet back out to Australia once Cork’s All-Ireland campaign concludes. “Hopefully I’ll be here until August,” the 20-year-old states, without need to clarify why.

Last October, however, her sporting future was suddenly shrouded in doubt after a blow to the eye while playing for North Melbourne against Richmond.

“With AFL it’s just that bit of a higher level for freak accidents,” O’Shea explains. “You see the likes of Bríd Stack who nearly became paralysed and she has a young kid at home, so it’s just freak accidents … and it was the same for myself.

“I received a blow to the eye, I’m not sure was it an elbow or the ball but when I opened it, it caused me to lose vision. Blood filled my eye and I couldn’t see out of it. I was grand for a few weeks but I just couldn’t see for that time and it was really scary because I didn’t know if I was getting my vision back.

​“Luckily I did in the end, but it took a while. The medics didn’t know; they hoped it would come right but there were a lot of cases where it wouldn’t, and they said they couldn’t confirm it.”

O’Shea’s meteoric rise had seen her become an All-Star in 2021, just after turning 19, as well as piquing the interest of AFLW scouts.

“This was my first injury, so that heightened it for me – and it was just difficult being that far away from home,” she recounts, speaking at a SuperValu championship launch.

“There’s clips of it and I just looked out of it. I was like, ‘I’m not coming off! My eyesight will come back in a second!’ I had a big fight with them but they said if I played on, I would have got permanent damage so I was lucky I didn’t.

“It would have been like the quarter-final for the All-Ireland. We went into the semi-final, so it was annoying to miss out. The season was more or less finished for me, because even with the pressure in my eye I couldn’t fly home.

“I just hit a low point because sport was my life out there, I had nothing outside of sport. That was why I came to the country and I couldn’t even do that. But I kind of grew up from that as well. I became more mature and I know how to handle myself better if I do become injured.”