A BITTER PILL to swallow.

As we all know, sport is cruel sometimes. 

There are exhilarating highs and days to cherish, but there are also gut-wrenching lows and ones to forget. 

Just four minutes in tothe All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, Dublin star forward Nicole Owens saw her afternoon — and 2019 — come to a close. Just short of a month beforehand, the St Sylvester’s star sustained a knee ligament injury in the warm-up before facing Monaghan in their All-Ireland championship opener.

Number 29 on the matchday programme, the cruciate rumours had circulated the week before their last four battle at Croke Park. And to many people’s surprise, Owens was a late change to the starting 15 and lined out with some heavy strapping on her right knee. But mere minutes later, she was back on the bench as it appeared to buckle on the run.

Afterwards, Dublin manager Bohan praised the “colossal” work she did since the Farney encounter to try and get back, adding that it “just reveals the character that’s in our group, that we have people that are willing to do whatever it takes”.

The Clontarf man refused to rule Owens out for the All-Ireland final showdown against Galway on that occasion, but she’s since undergone surgery and will of course, be a big loss.

He, and her Syls clubmate Niamh McEvoy can most definitely vouch for that.

“Well, the surgeon made sure she wouldn’t play on Sunday. I’d say if she hadn’t undergone that she would have given it a go,” Bohan said at yesterday’s captain’s day.

“It’s amazing, one of the lads who had gone through a similar fate linked up with her immediately. She had 33 one-on-one sessions as well as working with the physio and her team, the work she put in to try and rehab the tear she had was just incredible.

Owens after suffering the injury.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We would have felt that she deserved that opportunity [to play]. People talk about high risk and all that stuff, I’m very clear that if there’s that type of player on your team — not everyone, there’s only a very small percentage of players who can even attempt it, and a sports surgeon told us this — I think they deserve that opportunity, that loyalty to show you’re willing to back them.”

He added: “In a funny way she really helped us coming into that Cork game cause we didn’t really know where we were at.

“She came through the training sessions on the Wednesday and Friday that week which was obviously great for the group, and actually settled us. Even though we only got four minutes out of her at Croke Park, there was kind of an acceptance that when she was gone it was fine, because she got us to the day.

“So there was a massive bond developed, I suppose, and respected. As Goldie [Sinéad Goldrick] said to me, she had an incredible amount of respect for her anyway but her respect doubled for what she tried to achieve.

“So I think that has a knock-on effect on the group. They see someone who’s willing to do absolutely anything to play, they look at themselves and say, ‘What could I do?’ Tough for her, but that’s sport.”

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The Sky Blues have had a testing year with injuries, and with losses to the set-up particularly in defence. But Bohan is pleased with how his side have reacted in a “really tough summer” in that sense.

Relatively injury-free in 2017 and 2018 minus a few exceptions, this season it has been quite difficult. But younger girls have definitely stepped up to the plate, and grabbed any opportunities with both hands.

St Sylvester clubmates Owens and McEvoy, with another, Sinead Aherne.

Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

In the build-up to Sunday, there are no other concerns, bar Owens.

However hard it’s been to take, it’s been accepted at this stage.

McEvoy, another star forward and her Syls team-mate is obviously also gutted to see her miss out, but backs the 26-year-old to make it back.

Echoing Bohan’s words yesterday, and from after the last-four win, she tells The42:

“In the run-up to the semi she passed all the medical tests, the medical team were very, very happy with her. Outside medical staff outside the group were happy with her so it was worth a stab in the semi-final.

“Obviously it didn’t work out but she had the operation and she’s on the road to recovery already. She’s still around the group and she’s so positive.

“I think she’s been absolutely incredible since she’s had that surgery and the way she has contributed since, obviously she won’t be able to contribute on the pitch that day but she’s very much still part of the panel. 

“On a personal note, I would be devastated for her. She’s a great pal of mine from club and stuff, and I’ll certainly miss her that day in the warm-up and everything like that. But she’s been around the group and she’s an incredible personality.”

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