THE SIDELINE VIEW Injured Mayo footballers Cillian O’Connor and Jason Doherty are pictured at the recent Connacht championship match at Markievicz Park, Sligo. Pic: Conor McKeown
The way I see it
AT the time of writing, my two feet are planted in a bucket filled to the brim with ice.
Not even trying to pen thoughts for this column is able to distract from the pain.
It’s a situation that has become part of my daily schedule — three times daily in fact as per my physio’s guidelines — as I try to treat the dreaded shin splints.
Not to mention paying a fortune for in-soles!
Shin splints are basically the inflammation of tendons along the tibia – very common in runners.
Anyone that has ever had them will tell you they’re the most frustrating injury you can have. It’s like a constant throbbing pain on your shin bone during and after running and only time, stretching, and icing will clear it up.
My physio told me he’s never seen as many footballers suffering from them like he has over the past few weeks. He puts it down to a combination of training load, mechanics and the hard ground.
Probably the most frustrating aspect to shin splints is that you could play through the pain if you managed them right and in the circumstances of a must-win championship match.
But you’re only kicking the can down the road in terms of getting ‘right’ and you will come to a point where you just can’t go on.
So no better time than during divisional cup season to try and treat them before the serious stuff comes knocking in just over a month’s time.
Games are coming thick and fast these weeks, with divisional cup games bringing us all the way into the Mayo Senior Leagues. It might be ‘games’ every week, but with the lack of recovery time, there’ll barely be a player standing come championship at this rate.
My view is that there really isn’t a need to play out full group structures in two separate divisional cups and run them back to back. The schedule is far too much.
But when the games are on, and you’re left watching from the sidelines, it’s incredibly frustrating, watching the lads train from the confines of the gym and trying to keep your cardio up on the assault bike.
Jesus, the assault bike! I’ve no doubt that machine is being used as some devious form of torture in some weird dystopian universe!
The point is though that FOMO becomes a real emotion when you can’t play.
Watching on from the sidelines is ten times worse than playing the game in terms of emotions and there’s always that nagging thought in the back of your head that you’re losing ground on everyone else.
Patience is a virtue.
EXPERIENCING these emotions during what is really just a minor injury got me thinking what Cillian O’Connor must feel like after rupturing his Achilles.
The Ballintubber man was in the shape of his life and playing the best football he ever has for Mayo, in my opinion. He was their best player during their run to the All-Ireland Final last year and seemed to be raising the bar again.
The first half he produced against Clare last month was spectacular and displayed everything was good about him: winning primary ball out in front, racking up scores and starting the high press against the opposition.
I think he’s Mayo’s most important and influential player, just ahead of Paddy Durcan, and while we won’t feel the impact of his loss against the likes of Sligo and Leitrim, it’s the stages after that where Mayo will feel his absence.
A long summer is extremely unlikely without him.
But I can only imagine the frustration for him to have his season concluded this early and as innocuously as what occurred in Ennis.
Even someone as mentally resilient as Cillian will struggle over the months of recovery he has ahead. He’ll know he doesn’t have a decade of football left in his inter-county career and given how unlucky he has been in recent years with injury, it’ll be hard not to feel angry with the cards he has been dealt.
Many lonely days and nights in the gym lie ahead for Cillian and his road to recovery, but given the level of athlete he is, and the strength of his mental game, you’d back him 100 percent to return to the pitch as soon as is humanly possible.
Enjoying Euro 2020
WHETHER it’s the Italians shithousing their way to wins, or the French getting dumped out on penalties, or even watching the English getting more and more boisterous before their traditional collapse, Euro 2020 has been excellent.
International football to me is a real take it or leave it affair. More often than not the standard is never as high as the football world perceives it, most games are dull and void of any exciting fare, and the fact that our national team is absolutely dreadful doesn’t help.
But this tournament has produced some cracking moments and games of ball.
Belgium and Italy played out one of the best first halves of football I have ever seen during their quarter-final clash last week, while the feast of football that was France v Switzerland and Spain v Croatia on the same day, with 14 goals in two games, sure where would you get it?
The standard of teams is extremely high and very competitive and the tournament has also thrown up a beautiful ‘underdog’ story in the Danish who bounced back from that awful incident involving their best player, Christian Eriksen.
Mentioning the neighbour’s inevitable collapse above was slightly tongue-in-cheek.
If you pushed me for a winner right now, it’s hard to look past England.
There’s no doubt they have the most talented squad left in the competition and the more favourable side of the draw.
Their downfall could be a lack of experience in players and management and Gareth Southgate’s conservative tactics may eventually cost them.
Of course, the traditional Irish mentality sewn deep into our DNA means that I’ll support every team England are playing from here to the end. They’re the pantomime villains of every tournament, fuelled by the hype, arrogance and expectation so much of their media and a certain cohort of their fans produce.
And let’s not get started on their pretentious tournament song that they’ll carry through to every tournament until finally it will ring true.
I, for one, really hope ‘football doesn’t come home’ this summer!