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Ballyhaunis star on comeback trail

Sport

BACK IN ACTION Johnny Cunnane is pictured in action for Ballyhaunis against Ballinrobe last month in his first match back after a serious knee injury. Pic: Ciara Buckley

Interview
Mike Finnerty

ONE name has been conspicuous by its absence from the Ballyhaunis team over the last 15 months. Johnny Cunnane. The name ring any bells? Maybe you remember the corner-back from Mayo’s run to the All-Ireland Under-20 Final in 2018.
Or perhaps he caught your eye when Ballyhaunis reached the Intermediate final two years ago.
Cunnane tore the ACL in his knee at the end of July last year during a Michael Walsh League match against Mayo Gaels, two weeks before the start of the club championship.
Next Saturday the two clubs meet in the County Intermediate Final and, for Johnny Cunnane, who has come off the bench in three of Ballyhaunis’ last four championship matches, the wheel will have come full circle.
It’s been a long road towards recovery and he’s the first to admit that watching the season unfold from the sideline hasn’t always been easy.
“From the team point of view, it’s been great to see them getting to a County Final again,” the 23 year-old told The Mayo News. “But from a personal perspective it’s been tough. To go from playing all the time to watching and coming on as a sub’ has been frustrating.
“We have such great backs and they’re all playing so well, so it’s just so hard to break back into the team.
“It’s been great to see my brother, Davy, doing so well and shining. But at the same time it’s frustrating watching him doing so well too!” he smiled.
“But all I can do is push lads at training and do all I can if I come on. My motivation really is towards working hard this winter and trying to come back fitter and better for next year.”
Cunnane, who is an accountant, works from home three days a week. For the last two months he has been commuting to Dublin by train from his home in Ballinlough, two days a week.
It means 5.30am starts and arriving back west at 9pm that night. He passes the time on the train by reading, watching Netflix and listening to podcasts.
It gives him plenty of time to think too, and reflect on how far he has come since suffering his injury.
“It was a freak accident, I just went into an unnatural position and my knee jerked,” he recalled. “I’d never really had any injuries before so it was tough.
“It takes its toll, it’s mentally draining. And at times it can be very lonely.
“Being injured, and being out of football, really makes you value everything you have when you’re fit and healthy and playing.
“Because everything was in lockdown I didn’t really have much to do either. I don’t drink so I didn’t have the pastime of going to the pub,” he laughed.
Cunnane is already looking to the future.
He intends to drive on over the coming months in an effort to be fit and ready for next season with Ballyhaunis.
Another phone call from James Horan would be nice too, he admits.
“I got a call from him at the end of 2018 and went in for some trial games, and he called me in as well at the end of 2019,” he explained.
“I was on a development panel at the start of 2020 but then Covid happened and that panel was disbanded because nobody knew if the season was going to restart again.
“I’d like to think that I if I got fit and was playing well with the club that I’d get a call again. “But it all depends on what I do over Christmas and during the winter. I have to get fit first and focus on the club. But getting a chance with Mayo would be a goal at the back of my head alright.”
But first comes Mayo Gaels again.
And a chance to make some new memories.

3011 MPU

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