Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Two months short of 37 I hadn't given up on goal to play in Croke Park again'

No matter how slim the chance was, I wondered if Jim Gavin's appointment would offer me a lifeline

Jason Sherlock in action for Dublin in 2009
Jason Sherlock in action for Dublin in 2009

Jason Sherlock

On a wet, miserable November evening in 2012, I got home from work and went inside to my family. The sitting room was warm and inviting and the temptation was there to settle down for the evening with Louise and the kids.

Instead I went upstairs, threw on some training gear and went back out to pound the pavements around the neighbourhood. I was two months short of my 37th birthday and I still hadn't given up on my goal to play in Croke Park again.

As I ran, my mind wandered. No matter how slim the chance was, I wondered if Jim Gavin's appointment as Dublin manager would offer me a lifeline to return to the squad.

As I ran against the driving rain, I used that possibility as my motivation to put one step ahead of the other as fast as I could.

I came back home, went upstairs to shower and I heard my phone ringing. The caller? Jim Gavin!

It turned out that Jim's reason for calling was to enquire about a hotel base for the team for the year ahead but I felt I had to seize the moment.

"I know this might sound crazy, Jim", I said, "but would you consider me as an option to get back in? I still feel I have something to offer."

Without hesitation Jim responded: "I'd have no problem with that. I'd look at any player."

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Now, Jim may have got off the phone and wondered what the hell I was on about, but he was as good as his word. He said he would take a look and, in many ways, he gave me a lift by not slamming the possibility of a recall.

I set about the (training) schedule and focused a lot on hill running and sprinting, the latter I did mostly at Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park. I got to know that place well over that winter!

I mainly trained on my own but sometimes invited Ross McConnell and Declan Lally along to gauge how I was doing. Then we progressed the programme to longer runs, to replicate what was required in Croke Park.

I was really impressed with Fergus (Connolly, former Dublin strength and conditioning coach) he had a great way of connecting and passing on his expertise in a way that felt manageable.

I rigorously put myself through this process for the next couple of months, between February and March, but Mother Nature intervened now and again and I started picking up little strains that would set me back along the way.

The reality began to hit that the body just couldn't take the physical toll required any more and the realisation that my inter-county days were over finally became a reality.

By May 2013 my chances of getting to Croke Park with the club were ended when Plunkett's were knocked out in the first round of the championship.

In my time with Plunkett's I gave it everything. I hoped I could influence them in a positive way but we fell short of winning a championship.

Still, I was very proud to see some of the players progress and I really appreciated the welcome I received in the club, particularly from the former club chairman, Pat Bugler, who unfortunately passed away in January 2017.

But knowing that my race was run, I called Jim: "Jim, I appreciated the opportunity but, physically, I am not going to be where I need to be. Thank you for considering me and I wish you and the team all the very best."

Jim thanked me for my effort to play for Dublin again and the phone call ended. I was calm, my mind and body finally at ease.

There were tears, but this time tears of pride. I was satisfied that I had given everything for one last rodeo.

And there was the closure I needed - it came almost four years after I had been dropped.

Irish Independent

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