"That's just sport. It made yesterday all the sweeter." - After the darkness comes light for Mahony 2 weeks ago

"That's just sport. It made yesterday all the sweeter." - After the darkness comes light for Mahony

"The knee is very good. The top priority has been getting that right."

Disaster struck for Pauric Mahony in 2020 when, two weeks out from the first round of the Munster championship, the Ballygunner club-man tore his cruciate ligament in a challenge game against Wexford. It's the nightmare scenario for every sports-person and for Mahony, with Covid distorting the calendar, it was a double-whammy as the injury ruled him out for two inter-county seasons.

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The absence, the sharp-shooting forward says, made Sunday's county final win all the sweeter. Mahony scored 0-9 as after nine months of diligent rehab and recovery, he showed no ill-effects and looked back to his very best when Ballygunner made it eight-in-a-row with their win over Roanmore.

Mahony spoke to Colm Parkinson on Monday's GAA Hour and he took us back to the tough times, when he initially came to terms with the harsh realities of his injury.

"It was tough, it was unfortunate.

"Myself and Tadhg De Búrca would have been looking at each other at games going 'God, we got a tough deal of it here,' but that's just sport I suppose, and it made yesterday all the sweeter. Having watched all that hurling, to get back out there and to be a part of it at close to your full-fitness, that's just great."

The injury itself was as innocuous as it gets, with Mahony's experience highlighting the fickle and frustrating nature of cruciates.

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"Normally you'd hear of people twisting or jumping up for ball and then landing awkwardly, but I was just running after somebody, put my hurley into intercept the ball and then just felt something at the back of my knee.

"You had an excruciating pain then for 20 or 30 seconds but then I kind of thought nothing of it. I was kind of saying to myself 'Jesus, you're after making a show of yourself here with that bit of a roar.' But then, I went to turn again. Sure they say you could run a marathon with your cruciate gone, it's just if you turn, you'll know all about it quickly."

Despite having suffered a broken shin in 2015, Mahony didn't feel sorry for himself as along with his brother Philip, he set up a gym in their Ballygunner home and that was where he put in the hard yards that have brought him back. Philip himself is currently out with a leg injury - the family have suffered their fair share of them - but he doesn't have to look too far for inspiration.

"You start picking up little niggles here and there when you come back from a long-term injury but our physios and trainers are all brilliant and they've looked after me," says Pauric.

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Now he has a Munster club to look forward to, a season with Waterford, but first, it's out to Portugal with some of the Ballygunner boys. After the darkness comes the light.

"There's a few of us heading off to Portugal there in the morning. It's eight weeks from the Munster club now, normally it's straight into it but in this situation, we have a bit of a break and we'll try and clear up a few niggles and injuries and then put the heads down next week."