Conor Murray feared nerve injury to his shoulder would end his career
Munster scrum-half Conor Murray has revealed that he thought his career may have been over after suffering nerve damage to his shoulder during Ireland’s Six Nations loss to Wales in March.
Murray was withdrawn from the defeat in Cardiff early in the second-half with what was initially believed to be a shoulder stinger, but what was later revealed by Lions coach Warren Gatland as nerve damage.
After spending the best part of the last two months on the sidelines, Murray insists that he is close to a full recovery and claims that he could make his return to the field this weekend against reigning Pro 12 champions Connacht, but that during the early stages of his rehabilitation he did question his ability to play again.
“I would be lying if I said no,” said Murray when asked if he had thoughts of having to retire from the game at the Maximuscle relaunch in Sandyford, Dublin, on Thursday.
“That thought comes into your head, 'Is it going to get better? Do I need surgery?,' all those things. But talking to the physios, working with them, testing my strength every week, it was always improving.
“We were always on the right track. Seeing neurologists, getting second opinions, seeing everyone we could possibly see and everyone we saw was positive and upbeat about the upward curve I was on. That thought does come into your head automatically, because it means so much for me to be a rugby player and I have a good few years left still.
“To have that thought in your head is an awful thought and you see people retiring from injury and it's not nice, it's very difficult. That thought came into my head but that was only a small part.
“My headspace was really good because we had seen everyone we needed to see and we knew it was really positive. We were on the right track, which was great.”
The track to recovery was aided by advice Murray sought from teammate Rory Scannell and Munster technical coach Felix Jones.
Scannell sat out three games earlier this season after damaging nerves in his neck in Munster’s one point loss to Cardiff in round 2, while Jones was forced to retire from the game in October 2015 after he was unable to overcome a neck injury he suffered against Glasgow a month before his retirement.
Murray said that he leaned on the pair during his rehabilitation and that their advice helped guide him through his recovery which appears to be nearing its end.
“I was asking everyone who had ever had a nerve injury, 'When did you get your strength back? When were you back?' said Murray.
“Some lads were a week, some lads were four weeks, some lads were beyond that, some lads were a couple of months.
“I was five, six weeks pretty much. It's a frustrating time because you don't know when the strength is going to come back, but thankfully is has. It comes back gradually and I feel strong enough to play rugby, which is great.”
Gatland will be hoping Murray is able to back up his feelings with an appearance on the pitch, with the New Zealander laying down somewhat of a mandate last month claiming that Murray has to play a game before he boards the Lions plane to New Zealand on the 29th of May.
Murray has not played a game of rugby since the Wales defeat on March 10, but he did say that he hopes to be involved against Connacht on Saturday.
If he can’t return against the Westerners at Thomond Park this weekend, he added that he’d put good money on making a return in Munster’s home semi-final two weeks later on the 20th of May.
If Murray was to return for the semi-finals, It would give the 28-year-old just nine days to prove his fitness to Gatland with many expecting the Limerick native to start in the first test against the All Blacks on June 24.
Many excluding Murray himself, who firmly believes that the race for the starting scrum-half spot is wide open.
“I genuinely think the competition is really, really high,” Murray added.
“It’s a level playing field and it’s going to be about who plays better on tour. With that regard it’s going to be really tough, and I have no idea that where I stand that way, but I can just speak of my experience over the last four years I’ve definitely grown and I’ve definitely got better as a player.
“Mentally I think I’m better equipped to handle these types of situations but yeah I’m definitely in a better place than I was four years ago but that’s not to say you’re going to get into the team. The competition is definitely red hot.
“I really respect the other two lads, genuinely, I think they’re really good players so hopefully that will bring the best out in myself. It’s going to be whoever Warren and Rob and the lads prefer, or whoever is playing better and that’s the way it should be.”
And so it should, let’s just hope Murray gets a chance to state his case, sooner rather than later.
Maximuscle have launched a new range of protein bars as part of their “Home of Gains” campaign. To celebrate the launch Maximuscle ambassador Conor Murray held two exclusive training sessions in Dublin.
The sessions were held by Murray at the specially created Home of Gains gym, in partnership with RAW, one of Ireland’s premium strength and conditioning gyms.