It was like someone stabbing you with a knife, admits Skehill
James Skehill has likened the constant pain in his shoulder during the first half of Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final replay to a stabbing.
Admitting that he considered himself to have failed a fitness test on his dislocated left shoulder on Saturday after medics had given him just a "20-80" chance of playing on Friday night, Skehill acknowledged that he was unable to play through the pain barrier as a result of a training ground accident one minute from the end of their final preparatory session.
His decision to play was taken "50-50" with the management, but Skehill admitted his puck-outs were much shorter because of the pain and that he would have caught Eoin Larkin's shot instead of batting it away, presenting Richie Power with Kilkenny's opening goal, had he been fully fit.
Not even a heavy dose of painkillers could dull the pain sufficiently for Skehill, who came off at half-time in a distressed state.
"People often talk about this pain barrier and I found it awful hard to break it -- no matter how much I concentrated on the game or concentrated on a ball or concentrated on the score, every movement I made was like someone stabbing you with a knife. Every puck-out was like getting stabbed," he reflected in Dublin yesterday, prior to departure for last night's homecoming.
"I'm not making excuses, but that's just the way it was. Knowing in the back of your mind that you are not 100pc, you are split down the middle in the sense that you are telling yourself that you shouldn't be here, while the other part of you is saying, 'suck it up'."
Skehill revealed he played only because he wanted to give a sense of normality to the players around him.
"Friday was kind of a crisis moment. If I saw one of my team-mates down with a popped shoulder it would affect me no matter how mentally strong you are. I love all those guys so I said I would give everything I could to contribute. Some might say I was a hindrance, but some might say it was a positive, me starting.
"As I said to my mother and family, I thought my presence would give the guys a lift. Because if I was behind them it would give them a sense of familiarity. 'There's James, nothing has changed, everything is okay'.
"A dislocated shoulder is a very serious injury -- the bone doesn't just pop out of its socket, all the muscles, all the ligaments go with it.
"On Saturday if I was to ping a ball 20 yards I couldn't do it, but I thought the roar of the crowd and the adrenalin rush would get me through. It got me so far but it didn't get me far enough."
Skehill's discomfort was evident in the early stages when he kicked a ball away from his own goalmouth instead of stooping to lift it.
"I never kick a ball, honest to God," he said. "I just couldn't pick it up. I wasn't able to do anything."
The length of his puck-outs and his reaction to the Larkin shot were other indicators to Skehill that he wasn't right. "If I was fit I would have caught Eoin Larkin's shot. Even the one that was coming straight to my hand, I couldn't take it," he said.
"I could get my hand over my head and then Walter Walsh fell right on top of me. I knew myself that it was gone. The puck-outs would be going 20 yards longer. They were only going 80 or 90 yards, which is nothing by my standards, it normally goes 110 yards-plus.
"In the first match, the Kilkenny half-back line were going back and it (puck-out distance) put them under pressure. (On Sunday) they were going forward to the ball.
"I'm kicking myself an awful lot -- you'd even be questioning your faith as to why these things happen."
Skehill admitted that he should have alerted management much quicker about his distress.
"I thought body language was very important; if somebody looks back at me and sees positive body language, they'd think maybe things are okay," he said.
"But it was just so hard to give off full positive body language. I just couldn't. I don't know if that's a failure on my behalf or if it was just the pain. I couldn't do it and if I had it right I would have put my hand up and said, 'take me off'."
Fergal Flannery replaced him for the second half and Skehill now faces a six-month lay-off, with surgery on the cards. He still drew positives from a season that ticked a lot of boxes for him.
"I set out my stall at the start of the year that I wanted to win the Leinster title," he said. "I wanted an All-Ireland, I didn't get it. I wanted an All Star, I probably won't get it. I wanted as many accolades as possible," he said.
"I've achieved a lot. People would have doubted me in the past but I knew if I got a string of games together -- and I did -- and a lot of training under my belt, I was fully, fully confident that I could make a difference.
"People also forget that there's no county panel in the country who have 17 U-21s, as far as I know anyway.
"It's a hugely positive year for us. If you told me at the start of the year that we'd win the Leinster title and we'd be in the All-Ireland, and would take the greatest team of all time to a replay, I'd have snapped your hand off."