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12th Feb 2024

Four hurlers struck down by the dreaded hamstring sniper on bruiser of a League weekend

Niall McIntyre

The hamstring sniper took four hurlers out in their prime at the weekend.

Soft-tissue injuries go hand-in-hand with boggy pitches and winter GAA and four high profile hurlers fell victim to one of season’s perils at the weekend.

Tipperary duo Jake Morris and Bryan O’Mara were both forced off in the first half of their Allianz National Hurling League Round Two clash against Galway due to the ‘dreaded hamstring,’ as Liam Cahill put it.

O’Mara and Morris will be hoping to make swift recoveries but the fall-out is something sharper, and a good deal more distressing for Stephen Bennett and Robbie O’Flynn, both of whom have had recurring problems over the last few years.

To see O’Flynn coming off after 43 minutes of Cork’s loss to Kilkenny due to another hamstring strain was a huge blow for the player and his county.

As one of the fastest players in hurling, it’s unsurprising that the Érin’s Own club-man has hamstring issues but he has suffered more than most.

Having torn his hamstring in the Munster championship against Tipperary last year, the hamstring operation he would subsequently require sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

It was five months before the 26-year-old would return to action and at that, he was only coming on as a sub in his club’s Junior A county final win in October.

O’Flynn played the full-game against Clare last week and while his manager Pat Ryan is hopeful the injury he sustained against Kilkenny isn’t too bad, the interruption is none-the-less unwelcome given the season’s condensed nature.

It’s the same sort of story for Waterford’s Stephen Bennett, given his well-documented injury issues. Only a couple of weeks ago, his manager Davy Fitzgerald revealed the depth of his hip problems.

‘The medical advice was ‘you need to do a job and a serious job.’ If he gets the serious job, he won’t be playing hurling again,” Fitzgerald said.

Bennett pulled up with a hamstring after 52 minutes against Clare, and was seen limping towards the dressing room after the game. Speaking afterwards, his manager Davy Fitzgerald was afraid to ask about the injury.

“He missed three or four league games last year, so he just wants to get a run and try and get that fitness up in the games because we are not training him that hard because of what he has injury-wise.

“Games like this are where he can really work on his fitness.”

Former Kerry footballer Darran O’Sullivan suffered his fair share of hamstring injuries down through the years and speaking on The GAA Hour, the Kerry speedster detailed his issues with the hamstrings, and the psychological trouble it creates.

“One decent hamstring injury, and your season is more or less gone.

“One serious hamstring injury and you could be out for eight to twelve weeks.

“Then psychologically, the trust just isn’t there in your head for another two or three weeks after you’re back.

“I had a good few in my latter years,” he said.

“The injuries all started coming after 2011, which was my best year, it was a long year, and then 2012 was the first year I was really in bother with the hamstrings,” he said.

“Later on in 2012, I do remember we went up to Westmeath in the qualifiers and I had the injury so I was on the bench.

“We weren’t going too well at the time so they brought me on and I got a goal and I did another job on it. I remember coming out, Gooch telling me to focus or whatever and I was like ‘sure my hammer’s gone.’

“I lasted ten seasons without missing a championship game. But it all came back after I got the hip done then again.

“I got it done at the end of 2013 and then in 2014, I think I did the hammer, either a strain or a grade one seven times.

“Nothing serious, but it would keep you out for a week or two here or there, and just hold you back.

“Then I tore a tendon leading up to the Mayo game in the championship. That was the first time I’d ever missed a championship game for Kerry.”

And one injury eventually led to another.

“Then I burst a gut to get back playing for the club, but tore all the tendons and had to be stretchered off one day.

“It all came from the hip and the tightness in the back, silly ones. I should have known better. You’re trying to push on the team, trying to get fitter so you don’t sit out training. It was a case of trying to get back out there.

“It was stupid on my part, I should have been more mature after being told I couldn’t do it. But you’d be stubborn. And then you make the same mistakes over and over again.

“And the confidence in the hamstring just goes, when you’re trying to go at full tilt, 100% sprinting (it just doesn’t work.)

The 36-year-old was playing with his club up until last year and he’s said that since retiring from inter-county, and crucially, since he’s been able to manage his own load, the hamstrings have given him little to no trouble.

“I was playing up to last year with the club.

“But I haven’t had a hamstring injury since I retired (from inter-county).

“But it is amazing, once you can manage your own load, and do the training that suits you, all my injuries cleared away. My biggest problem was taking that load of inter-county, my body couldn’t recover quick enough.

“Ger Keane who was our physio, he’d know if I had an injury coming, because my back was so tight that it was inevitable.

“There used to be a competition with the physios trying to get a crack out of my back, because it was so tight! If they got any bit of a crack they’d be delighted.”

It would be something if you could point to Fitzgibbon commitments as a reason for this weekend’s injuries but the four hurler in question aren’t hurling Fitzgibbon. That’s the curse of the hamstring, you just never know when it’s going to strike.

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