Eimear Considine lay writhing on the turf. As the pain coursed through her knee, she considered the worst but hoped for the best. After such a build-up around Clare ahead of what should have been the biggest day in her career, it couldn’t end after five minutes. Could it?
Maybe the severity of the soreness would ease, as happens so often in a contact sport after the initial dart of agony. But it didn’t.
The cruciate ligament injury suffered by her sister, Ailish bulldozed its way into her mind. She considered the suffering of that injury and the daunting recovery process.
To miss out on the Division 1 League final, the Banner’s first senior national camogie decider, with your entire family and friends watching in Semple Stadium would be bad enough. To lose the entire season, to have to endure the torture of rehabbing a cruciate – that was just a desperate prospect.
Ailish was the first person by her side.
“She ran over and said ‘Did you hear a pop?’ I said ‘No’. She goes ‘Okay, you’re fine so’.
“Then the physio came over and checked and she’s like, ‘No, I don’t think it’s a cruciate’ and once she told me that I couldn’t care what I did because I was after seeing my sister go through that and I didn’t want to go through the same.”
It was the start of a nightmare day for Clare though. Considine’s departure unsettled the balance of the defence and the debutants missed a couple of early scoring opportunities that might have calmed the nerves.
Just like any side clad in black and amber, the opposition smelled weakness and ruthlessly swept in for the kill. In the end, Clare only managed four points and lost by 14. Their stricken half-back didn’t see any of it as she was being attended to back inside. It was her sibling who in between checking on her status, kept her updated.
"It was getting worse every time she came into me.”
It is a measure of this Clare squad under former hurling All-Star Colm Honan that they have recovered from such a potentially debilitating setback to reach the Liberty Insurance All-Ireland quarter-final. And that they are a real live prospect of dethroning champions Galway in the second of a Gaelic Grounds double-header that also includes Cork’s battle with Offaly.
It says a lot too for Considine that she is back in the fold. Mind you, the timing wasn’t the worst, if you disregard the five-minutes-into-the-League-final aspect of it. A medial lateral ligament was the prognosis with a six-to-eight week recovery period. The League was over and it was seven weeks until the championship.
A PE and Irish teacher at the Holy Faith Convent Secondary School in Glasnevin, the holidays were kicking in too, which meant the 22-year-old could stick rigidly to the programme given to her by Ray Moran of the Santry Sports Clinic.
“I did all the gym work before going running and cycling. I was running after four weeks. I was back in the field pretty soon after that to work on my touch. I was doing a lot on the ball wall and in the fifth week I was back in contact. Championship was the week after against Derry.”
A dual responsibility tested her and she lined out against Kerry with the big ball crew a week later. The kicking did cause a twinge but everything has been fine since and she is in peak condition now. An All-Ireland winner at intermediate level with the footballers in 2009 – when she was player of the match – Considine wants to reach the ultimate level with the camogie team.
A win on Saturday would make them real contenders and many shrewd observers think they are capable of downing the Tribeswomen. They think it themselves.
“I know they’re All-Ireland champions but we beat them in the League last year, we lost to them this year and then won (in the League play-off). So we wouldn’t fear them. The fact we beat them when we really needed to, when it was do-or-die; we know we can do it.
“Training is going really well. Everyone is fighting for a position. You really don’t know who’s going to be starting or when you’re going to get a chance. It’s that close. And it’s that close between the teams that are left in the championship too.
“We’ve a stronger panel than we’ve ever had. Usually around this stage we’d be losing players. This year, we have 30 in the panel, 30 in training. So we’re in good condition.”
*As published in Irish Independent Friday August 8th