GIVEN THE LENGTHS he has had to go to just to get on the football pitch, Cork’s Brian Hurley certainly doesn’t see tonight’s Munster SFC final against Kerry (7pm) as an impossible task.
Two horrific hamstring injuries – the first in 2016 and then, following recovery, another a year later – threatened his career, with Cork and his club Castlehaven, but an iron will ensured that the negative prognoses weren’t borne out.
Brian Hurley found the net twice in Cork’s win against Limerick in the Munster semi-final.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Hurley played last year in what was a disappointing campaign but he admits that, while he was mentally tuned in, his physical levels were short. More hard work in the winter and spring paid off as he scored two goals in the Munster semi-final win over Limerick and now he is relishing the prospect of taking on Kerry.
Click Here: New Zealand All Blacks Jerseys
Despite a 17-point loss to the Kingdom at the same stage last year, nobody in the Cork camp is looking at this as a free hit or a warm-up for a qualifier fourth-round tie.
“Not a hope,” he says. “Not a hope. If you think we’re going to back down from any opposition, especially Kerry, you’re interviewing the wrong man or the wrong lads around here.
“That’s being straight-up. I don’t paw off questions, I love challenges, I love big games. This is what I thrive on and I can’t wait for it. There seems to be a lot of talking Kerry up but it’s a two-horse race.
“You see Liverpool against Barça, 3-0 down and [Liverpool] came back to win it. You look at Anthony Joshua against [Andy] Ruiz, Ruiz knocked him out even though Joshua was supposed to be unbeatable.
“You work hard enough, you put it in, you believe in it, you won’t be far away.”
It could be dismissed as bravado, but Hurley has proof of how far his strong belief has carried him, especially given the initial medical verdict.
“There was plenty blunt, I can tell you. There was plenty blunt enough,” he says. “There was. Of course there was. He told me that I more than likely… that they wouldn’t be able to operate on my hamstring again and then the other thing was that I would not make it back to this level and here I am so, as I said, hard work does pay off.”
Even then, there were times when he doubted his ability to make it back.
“Yeah, like, I won’t lie to you, there was of course,” he says. “I came out of a brace after eight weeks, a 90-degree brace and I took the brace off and my leg was about a third of the size of my right leg, so it was frightening, to be honest with you.
Hurley has endured rotten luck with injuries.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
“I won’t lie to you. I had a lot of lows at times but you have them on comebacks and you speak to any other player out there that’s been through similar injuries, they have them also but it’s the willingness of people telling you, ‘He won’t make it back,’ or whatnot that drives me on. I love that. I actually live off that stuff, like. Fellas telling you that he’s done or he’s finished and all this.”
After two years out, the natural instinct would be to try to make up for lost time, but Hurley — part of Cork teams which reached All-Ireland finals at minor and U21 levels — has to be careful with how he manages things.
“Probably the hardest part of my training scheme now is that,” he says. “You see, I need to do more on my hamstring to make sure my muscle is kept up and it takes the pressure off the hamstring but, at the same time, you don’t want to overdo it, so my hardest challenge is pulling out of training and saying, ‘Do I have enough?’ or is it fatigue?
“There’s nights I have to come in and do extra work on my hamstring and try to perform the night after, like. Inter-county fitness now is gone through the roof, training’s gone through the roof. For a fella that’s after two hamstrings off the bone, it’s kind of hard to keep up with at times but you’ve no other choice.
“So some nights you might have to hit the gym session instead of doing a pitch session but yeah, it’s the hardest challenge, trying to pull out of a training when you’re trying to get the most out of yourself. It’s beneficial because you might be able to perform better the next night.”
The approach certainly paid off against Limerick, with Hurley putting a forgettable 2018 behind him. Not that he’s in the mood to ease off.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was 120% there mentally last year but if I was being honest, physically I probably wasn’t,” he says.
“My head was thinking differently to my body. My body wasn’t capable or something. I don’t know, it’s fairly hard to explain, to be honest with you, because you’re in good shape but it’s not moving as it should be.
“That killer instinct, that ridiculous sharp speed, it just wasn’t there and I’m feeling it back this year. I’m not saying I’m where I want to be yet but I’m certainly hopeful that there’s a big game on the way.”
The42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us!