LAST JULY BRIAN Hurley was in Cork IT’s grounds in Bishopstown, playing in a training game with the Cork senior footballers.

They were getting set for relaunch their season in the qualifiers after being stunned by Tipperary in Munster.

Cork footballer Brian Hurley.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

But Hurley’s season was about to come crashing to a half, when he tore his hamstring in that in-house session.

The fact that he’s only now – eight months on – set to make his comeback, illustrates the severity of the injury he suffered.

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The 24-year-old is aiming to line out for his club Castlehaven against Ballingeary in a Division 1 league game in Cork next Sunday.

Brian Hurley playing for his club Castlehaven against Nemo Rangers in the 2015 Cork county senior football final.

Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

It’ll be a milestone after such an extended period on the sidelines trying to recover but he was instantly aware last July how serious the injury was.

“I recall biting my hand on the floor,” recalled Hurley.

“I just knew straight away that I was in serious trouble. I never pulled a hamstring before but I the pain was horrific.

“I never felt pain like it. It was unbearable. It ruptured off the bone four inches. It was a pretty major injury.

“If I was being honest, I was lifting heavy weights – my own call – that week. Going back through GPS (figures), I was a bit below par on my speed so there might have been a bit of fatigue there.

“Two lads coming at me, I went to go on my right, my right leg stayed, I went to push left and it kind of slipped out, I did the splits.

“I could hear it ripping up the whole way. It was just like ripping paper, ripping a shirt. You could hear it. I knew I was in severe trouble.

“I can remember Colm O’Neill saying to me, ‘Look it might just be pulled’. I can remember going up on top of a table in CIT and I couldn’t come off it. I couldn’t move the leg.

“It’s good now. I’ve a lot of work done. My speed is nearly fully back up to where it should be. I think I’m nearly there.”

Brian Hurley at today’s RNLI and GAA partnership.

Source: Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

The rest of 2016 was written off and he’s had to be patient before kick-starting his 2017 campaign. Getting game time is his initial aim with an inter-county return targeted for the remainder of the league campaign.

Hurley’s comeback occurs at a time when Cork’s form has nosedived. Pinpointed beforehand as a leading promotion contender in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League, they have only picked up one win from four games.

Losing to Clare for the first time in two decades on Sunday was a major setback. Hurley stayed in Cork on Sunday for a rehab session but admits having watched the video of the game, that it ‘wasn’t pretty’.

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“I was doing my own session in Cork to be honest. If I went up there, I probably wouldn’t have got anything done. I looked back on the video, it wasn’t pretty, it’s not acceptable from a Cork team.

“It hasn’t gone our way but it is the league still. We’ve got to come back in the Meath game with a reaction and hopefully get over the line.”

Hurley admits trying not to be weighed down by the criticism of the side can be a challenge.

“Obviously I haven’t been on the pitch in 8 months, I’ve probably been listening to a lot of it. It’s difficult in certain ways, you’re listening to people and they’re very negative, but in your own head and in the group we have, we have to be positive.

“If you listen to everyone, you’d have a headache. You’re in Division 2 football, it’s not easy. You came down from Division 1, every team is going to be going for you.

“That’s the reality of it. It’s up to us now to put the head down and turn it around.”

Brian Hurley in action for Cork against Tipperary last June.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The retirement of senior players over the winter has increased the need for leadership in their squad.

“100%, especially now after some of the bigger lads walking away from it this year,” said Hurley.

“(Daniel) Goulding and (Fintan) Goold were massive presences and brought a massive professionalism to the dressing-room.

Cork’s Fintan Goold

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Cork’s Daniel Goulding

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“When they moved on, you have to step up to the mark and learn from them and bring it into the dressing-room yourself.

“I think there’s no question about our talent. We’ve serious potential. We need to push on and come united together.”

For Hurley himself, the prospect of lining out again is one he will savour.

“The injury opened my eyes massively. I can remember the night I came home from hospital after getting surgery. Going down on the car, a bumpy road was digging into me, and I was saying, ‘Jesus, was this what I’m in for?’.

“Even trying to brush my teeth that night, I was in a brace and I can remember trying to get my head underneath the tap to wash out my mouth and I couldn’t. Getting in and out of bed, putting on my socks, small things like that.

“It just opens your eyes, how lucky you are to play football and be active. There’s other people out there that are not so lucky. You have to appreciate what you have.”

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