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12th Feb 2024

“There was a small clot in the back of my head” – GAA manager returns to sideline just three weeks after stroke

Lee Costello

“Maybe I shouldn’t be here today, but hurling is in your blood.”

Fermanagh hurling manager Joe Baldwin had suffered a stroke just three weeks ago, but managed to return to the sideline to see his team beat Leitrim at the weekend.

Baldwin took the stroke while at work, and went through a turmoil-filled few weeks before making the decision to return to the line, and help his team in their National League match.

Speaking to Off The Ball after the game, the Erne boss admitted that he “maybe I shouldn’t be here today” but “hurling is in the blood.”

“Three weeks ago, I just happened to be at work early one morning and I was speaking with two of my colleagues and I noticed that my speech started to slur a little bit,” he said.

“When my speech slurred, I got sort of pins and needles in the right side of my face, so, my partner is a nurse and I knew pretty much straight away what was happening. So, lucky enough I got to the hospital, we went to Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, where I live and I was diagnosed with having a stroke. There was a small clot in the back of my head.

“Three weeks of hard work from the rest of the management team, to get the boys into shape and put in the performance today, all credit to them. But personally, for myself, it was just a realisation that, you know, maybe I shouldn’t be here today, but hurling is in your blood and I felt this was the place where I wanted to be today.”

Baldwin went on to add: “I actually live in Coleraine too, I don’t live in Fermanagh, so the journey is probably two and a half-three hours drive every night to get there but when you’ve got a group of boys that we have behind us putting in performances and the standard of hurling that was here today, it makes you want to get up and do it.

“So, fair play to my partner Francis for taking me down the road today because obviously, I can’t drive at the minute so it puts a lot on her but we’re today and we’ve just seen a brilliant game of hurling.”

In what was an incredibly compelling and honest interview, the Fermanagh manager also spoke about losing his son Conall just over a decade ago and how hurling has helped him cope.

“I need to be careful and take it easy as best I can being an inter-county manager but it’s one of those things if hurling is in you, it’s in you,” he added.

“I’ve had a lot of tragedy as well in my life where I lost a son on Christmas Eve in 2012, a wee boy called Conall. He was a very gifted hurler, so, hurling is my way of trying to deal with whatever life throws at you.”

“When we lost Conall, every GAA family completely rallied around us at home. It was a difficult time and to jump straight back into inter-county after that, I felt like that’s what he wanted me to do. This is year 5 now of being in Fermanagh and we were very unlucky last year, losing in the final of the Nicky Rachard, we could have stayed up.”

In the sporting world we often say that winning is everything, but when you see things like this, it can’t help but put things into perspective, and at the same time underline the importance that the GAA has in our lives.

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