Somehow Pat Spillane's 1981 cruciate rehab routine hasn't survived the test of time 7 months ago

Somehow Pat Spillane's 1981 cruciate rehab routine hasn't survived the test of time

Pat Spillane tore his cruciate ligament when he was 26 and, having travelled over to Cambridge for surgery, his road to recovery began with a makeshift rehab routine that, let's just say, hasn't survived the test of time.

The year was 1981, surgery was less common, cruciates were unheard of and a banjaxed knee, well it wrapped up many a sporting career. As a footballer, Pat Spillane was told the jig was up but with the fire still burning, with his grá for the game still alive, the Templenoe man did everything within his power to defy the odds.


"I got the operation done by Dandy in Cambridge, paid for a lot of it myself," recalls Spillane, as in a brilliant episode of Living with Lucy, he gave his host and the audience a tour of south west Kerry and Templenoe.

"I was told that I'd never again play football. To be told that, at 26 years of age, that's like being told, that was almost life over. Listen, it wasn't, football isn't life or death but I vowed I'd come back. I vowed I'd come back."

That he did. Spillane made it back to win three more All-Ireland medals, two All-Stars and two footballers of the year but only after slogging it out to outrageous levels on the local pitch.

"So I would run around this pitch during my comeback, 30 or 40 laps," Spillane says, as he surveys the scenic surrounds of the pitch in Templenoe.


"Except with one difference, I'd have 10lb weights tied around my ankles."

"Looking back on it, it was lunacy. I destroyed my knees but at the time, it was worth it. I came back after two years and I was lucky enough to come back to full fitness."

Famed for his dedication and work-ethic, it wasn't be accident that this man became one of the most successful footballers ever.

"I wasn't a skilful footballer but I worked hard at my game. There were two things that I did. Kicking, kicking, kicking and every kick that I took here, it was an All-Ireland final between Kerry and Dublin.

"And I tried to make myself as fit as any person that ever played Gaelic football."

There were sea-swims, a putting competition, a boat-trip out to the atlantic and through it all, there were some endearing glimpses into the modest life of a man who doesn't take himself too seriously.


“I remember criticising the Kerry management and team selection.

“The following Sunday the parish priest in West Kerry stood up on the pulpit and basically denounced me, that I was a traitor as a Kerry man.

“It’s lost me lots of friends," he says of his work as a columnist/ pundit.

"It’s created lots of enemies for me for being honest – even my nephews. I don’t go to functions where there are players or managers, I feel getting close to them is not good.”

“We’re analysing a game of sport on a field, at the end of the day, it’s not a wartime situation."