THE SEVERITY OF it did not hit Pauric Mahony straight away.
It was two weeks out from the long-delayed start to the 2020 hurling championship, Waterford’s captain trying to hit full speed in a challenge match against Wexford.
He was chasing opponent Simon Donohue in the Fraher Field when a seemingly innocuous moment in that game transpired to derail his whole season.
“Whatever happened I just went to lunge in to flick the ball away and felt something in the back of my knee. Sure I hit the ground and let a roar out and 30 seconds later I was back up, thinking ‘Jesus, I’m after making a show of myself there, letting a roar out.’
“I thought there was nothing to it because I jogged back into position for the next play and then Sok (Stephen O’Keeffe) went to hit me a puck out and when I caught it, when I turned to give Kevin Moran a hand pass, I just felt something again.
“So that was really it and I went up to Tadhg O’Sullivan who is a family friend and the orthopaedic surgeon in Whitfield the following day. He just said I didn’t have any symptoms of an ACL, but the feel of the cruciate, he was a bit worried about.
“I got a scan on the Monday and that revealed the bad news.”
On the Tuesday that outcome was shared with the wider world by Waterford GAA. The Ballygunner talisman would be confined to a sideline role. Seven weeks on the county are still in the championship, getting set for the biggest game of the year.
Pauric Mahony will miss the 2020 season due to a knee injury. Liam Cahill, his team and all in Waterford GAA would like to wish Pauric a speedy and full recovery.
— Waterford GAA (@WaterfordGAA) October 20, 2020
There is a natural emotional conflict in being a peripheral figure on All-Ireland hurling final week.
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“The further you go in the championship, the harder it actually gets because you’re missing out on something, especially when you get to the final day.
“But at the same time it’s a little bit easier then as well, at the end of the day I’m a Waterford supporter first and foremost and we’re craving this long enough at this stage.
“The winning, it’s great that initial buzz, but you have mixed emotions then as well from your own side of things. But that’s pretty natural.”
Pauric Mahony sidelined with injury
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
He’s been down this long-term injury road before. At the outset of the 2015 championship, Mahony suffered a horrific shin break in a club match. The same leg incurred the blow on this occasion.
“I had to remove one screw from my knee from the previous op to get in to do the operation on this but everything went to plan. It was just a month ago I got the operation done, so it’s just gradually just trying to build up the recovery now. No real timeline yet but nowadays they say it takes at least six months to heal and then one to three months then to try and get back to the level of playing.”
Mahony has come to terms with being ruled out yet it was a tough adjustment to face. After the hard graft of pre-season, the year began on an upbeat note for Waterford and then came the summer shutdown. The club resumption brought another example of Ballygunner’s brilliance as they reached the seven-in-a-row mark on the local hurling stage but Mahony’s hopes of using that as a springboard were short-lived.
Ballygunner players celebrate their Waterford county senior final success.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
But he is is keen to point out there are others in the Waterford camp misfortunate as well.
“We’ve the likes of Darragh Fives who is injured too and he’s had a lot more bad luck than me over the years. Whereas I might have had one or two bad injuries where I had to go under the knife, he has had constant muscle injuries.
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“He was there Tuesday night before the Cork game absolutely flying, probably playing the best hurling he has played, and next minute he went down and his year was over. The way the championship is, it’s cruel in one way because a bad hamstring injury or the ACL like me you miss the whole championship. But again we are just thankful to have a championship.”
For his family his absence adds to the sense of change this year. Older brother Philip moved into retirement last January, a decision that prompted surprise given his influence in defence and strong recent form.
“I’d say Philip has his mind well made up at this stage, he’s fond of the golf there now and he had Mount Juliet booked for (last) Sunday morning.
“I think Philip was at the stage where he was after giving so much, and he’s one of those fellas who is either all in or all out. I think at the time he was just burnt out from everything and he just had enough of it.
“I haven’t really talked to him to be honest about what his long term plans are or what he’s thinking because we don’t do much hurling talk at home, it will only end up in a row or something!”
Philip Maony in action against Conor Whelan during the 2019 hurling league.
Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO
Despite the injury, he is grateful to Liam Cahill for keeping him involved. Even with the restrictions in recent weeks, Mahony has been fortunate to attend games in the capacity of a backroom team member.
“Liam was speaking to me pretty quickly after it and was keen for me to hang around. I suppose at the start I was kinda feeling like a bit of a waster, but then eventually you can start picking up the balls or bringing water out to the lads, you can do something and you feel like you’re offering something.
“It has made it a lot easier too in the fact that I’ve been able to attend the games because these lads are obviously very good friends and you’re involved in the team. Especially after doing a lot of the hard work with them it’s nice to be still there with them.
“But I think if I was sitting at home last Saturday night (week) in front of the telly with two minutes to go and Waterford winning it, it would have been harder to take, not actually being there.”
Neil Montgomery and Jamie Barron celebrate after Waterford’s semi-final success.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
The build-up is in stark contrast to the outbreak of excitement in 2017 when he previously contested a senior final with Waterford.
That low-key approach may work in the squad’s favour as they attempt to end Waterford’s agonising 61-year wait for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
“The ticket side of things will help anyway, an absolute nightmare,” laughs Mahony.
“I was only thinking myself that if we got there this year and with Philip gone off the panel the allocation to our family was going to be halved.
“In Croke Park last week there was an eerie feeling there. It brings it back to game on game and you have to go out with the same attitude and bring your game every time you go there.
“That’s how we have tried to approach it and it has worked to date. I’m sure the people of Waterford have been getting huge entertainment the last couple of weeks, the way the matches are kinda rolling week on week.”
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