Ciaran Kilduff makes quick return after broken back
With David McMillan at the top of this season's Champions League goalscoring charts, Ciaran Kilduff has no complaints about starting Dundalk's major European nights on the bench.
He knows that he could be in a much worse position. The very fact that he is available for selection is an achievement in itself given that Kilduff spent 10 days earlier this season wearing a back brace that left him housebound and unable to move to the extent that he wasn't even allowed to have a shower.
Fractured vertebrae sustained in an accidental collision with St Patrick's Athletic goalkeeper Brendan Clarke led to stark medical advice. He had checked himself into A&E after coming home from the game and realising that he wasn't just seriously winded.
"They gave me the scare tactics when I was with my dad. . . telling me if I didn't stay in this jacket (brace) that I'd run risk of complications with my legs," he recalls.
That hit the Kildare man for six. But the physios at Dundalk pointed the worried striker towards a specialist who adopted a more positive outlook that led to a recovery way ahead of schedule.
"Every game is a bonus for me now," explains Kilduff. "It was scary for the first few weeks. It's the little things.
"You couldn't move, you couldn't drive, you couldn't pick up your daughter, you couldn't bend, you couldn't do anything, even simple things like putting on your socks and shoes - it was a horrible thing.
"It was just a bloody straitjacket. You couldn't drive, you couldn't fit into a car. It was just literally sit on my bed. A trip down the stairs would have been as far as I'd go.
"I had my girlfriend, my daughter and my family and they were all great around me.
"It is more of a common injury for a car crash. It was more of a crushing motion because of the way he (Clarke) squashed me down, it was like squashing a can. It was 'bump' and the bottom one (vertebrae) gave away."
Kilduff was gearing up for a season on the sidelines but Dundalk's staff had other ideas.
"They left no stone unturned and sent me to the best specialist," he explains. "He got it right. He told me to get out of the brace because if I'd stayed in it, I'd probably still be rehabbing the back because all the muscle would have deteriorated. He said 'For your career, it's the right decision.'
"They were very aggressive with me in my rehab. I think after 11 days . . . if you want to call it running, I was basically walking around the pitch in Dalymount Park before a game with Bohs. It was just a bit surreal thing.
"People think, 'Jeez, he's got a broken back and now he's out doing a bit.' It just kept me ticking over and then thankfully the scans came back that it was a healing fracture, touch wood, I haven't had an ache out of it since."
Indeed, it's a minor ailment that has cost the well-travelled frontman a central place in Dundalk's European tilt.
He was selected ahead of McMillan after the mid-season break but a throat infection led to a reshuffle for the trip to Derry.
His old UCD colleague came into the side, scored a hat-trick and went on to enjoy the hottest streak of his life by registering 11 goals in six matches.
"Listen it's great," says Kilduff, "Obviously there's frustration on a personal level because you're thinking 'God, I want to score, I want the goals, I want to be the hero against BATE.' But thankfully, he's set up so many more ties for us now, and I'll get to make my mark in a few of them.
"We chop and change, I know there is plenty of football for me and him."
Kilduff was speaking at the Aviva ahead of tomorrow's play-off first leg with Legia Warsaw.
With over 20,000 tickets sold and a flurry of late purchases expected, both teams will train at the venue today as they prepare for their €15m fight for a place in the group stages of Europe's premier competition.