‘The plan is to keep the lads wrapped in bubble wrap, so to speak’

Cork hurling team physiotherapist is working hard to get the team ready

Physio Declan O’Sullivan: “I want to make sure they all get through the week and are presentable on Sunday.” Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Physio Declan O’Sullivan: “I want to make sure they all get through the week and are presentable on Sunday.” Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Tue, Sep 3, 2013, 01:00

For the past decade Declan O’Sullivan (39) has been physiotherapist to the Cork senior hurling team. A former player himself with Blackrock hurling club, he got involved with the Cork team when players requested the involvement of a trained physiotherapist, during a series of disputes with officials in the early noughties.

O’Sullivan of Physio Active is involved with the team three to four times a week, for several hours at a time. He arrives an hour before training and remains on for an hour afterwards. At the start of each session, injuries are assessed, and O’Sullivan helps with training and rehabilitation plans for players. In the past decade, he has had to upskill significantly to compete with changes in approach and preparation of Cork’s senior county hurlers, and he is pursuing a PhD in the area of cruciate ligament injuries.


Workload
While he wouldn’t be drawn on the progress of individual players, he was happy to outline his workload for the next few days, ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final. “The plan is to keep the lads wrapped in bubble wrap, so to speak,” he says, “I want to make sure they all get through the week and are presentable on Sunday. Thankfully, most of the injuries are all cleared up now so I hope to have a fairly quiet week in terms of actual physio.”

From time to time, O’Sullivan’s role as a physiotherapist has to compete with the desire of players to want to get out on to the pitch. While it may be a risk physically, as a former player himself, he understands players’ enormous desire to get back playing. There’s also a worry some players may under-report injuries for fear of not starting.


‘Balancing act’
“It is a balancing act to get them right and not to risk injury further, but also to take account of what is right for their head,” he says. “I try to sit down and plan what they need and what I need. With team doctor Con Murphy, we have worked hard over the last 10 years to get fellas to report injuries early. We can then eliminate anything before it becomes serious.”

Like anyone involved with the Cork and Clare teams this weekend, O’Sullivan has been tormented by people, especially private clients, asking him for tickets. His allocation is well and truly dispersed at this stage. 

On the day of the match, he will give the players a pre-match treatment in the hotel beforehand, and this continues on to the pitch with flexibility and stretching exercises. In the dressing room beforehand, some players may need to have parts of their bodies strapped, while during the match his role and that of the team doctor is to assess whether or not players are able to continue to play on, if they have been injured. “There is no magic in the magic sponge. We assess it and if they can play, they’ll play.”

While O’Sullivan may not be togging out himself on Sunday, he still feels the nerves, especially that moment when the team walks out on to the pitch.

“The minute you walk out, the hair stands up on the back of your neck. It is very gladiatorial. If this is what I am feeling as a physiotherapist, then the player’s emotions must be on a different level altogether.”