Skehill admits he wasn't fit to play


Galway took a gamble on playing their injured goalkeeper. Unfortunately it came back to bite them, writes GAVIN CUMMISKEY

GALWAY GOALKEEPER James Skehill spoke candidly yesterday about playing in Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final without the use of his left arm.

Anthony Cunningham named Skehill in the starting line-up despite the 24-year-old dislocating his left shoulder the previous Friday night and then failing a fitness test 24 hours before throw-in.

“In my own head I failed it, I failed it miserably,” said Skehill. “I got about five or six injections, took Panadol, Difene but they didn’t work. Nothing kicked in. It was just too sore.”

The injury, Skehill believes, contributed directly to Richie Power scoring Kilkenny’s opening goal in the 19th minute. Power followed up Eoin Larkin’s shot that Skehill was unable to hold.

“These big games are defined on big moments. I genuinely tell you if I was fit I would have caught Eoin Larkin’s shot.

“Even the one that came down that was coming straight to my hand but I couldn’t take it.”

That almost led to the concession of a penalty as Skehill slid, feet first, through the onrushing Walter Walsh, who subsequently fell on the shoulder causing more damage.

The Cappataggle man also felt Galway’s attack suffered because of the reduced length of his puck-outs.

“The puck-outs would be going 20 yards longer, they were only going 80 or 90 yards, which is nothing by my standards, it normally goes 110 extra.”

Skehill informed the Galway management of the need to replace him before half-time but the response was to continue hurling.

“I put my hand up and said take me off. There were about seven, eight minutes left in the half so we said just leave it until then. But at half-time I put my hand up and said I wasn’t able to continue. I thought I’d be a hindrance to the team.

“The pain was the main thing. People often talk about this ‘pain barrier’ and I found it awful hard to break it in the sense that no matter how much I concentrated on the game or concentrated on a ball every movement I made was like someone stabbing you with a knife.

“Every puck-out was like getting stabbed.

“I’m not making excuses but that’s just the way it was. Knowing in the back of your mind that you are not 100 per cent, you are split down the middle in the sense that you are telling yourself that you shouldn’t be here and the other part of you is saying ‘suck it up’.”

Was the decision to start left with the player or the manager?

“It was kind of 50-50 in the sense that the management entrusted me to tell them if I wasn’t able but also they understood how important it was for me to start.

“We discussed it, we thrashed it out, we did all the necessary physical tests and we thought we would go for it. We’d try our best anyway.”

Despite having dislocated the shoulder during the National League, after a clash with Waterford’s Shane Walsh, Skehill felt his mere presence on the field made the risk to start worth taking.

“Friday was kind of a crisis moment. I don’t care who you are but seeing one of your players, if I saw one of my team-mates down with a popped shoulder it would affect me no matter how mentally strong you are.

“Sure look it, I love all them guys so I said I would give everything I could to contribute. Some might say I was a hindrance but some might say it was a positive me starting.”

Skehill himself erred on the negative side of this argument. The very first ball dropped into the square created a panic in the Galway defence as Skehill was unable to bend down and pick it up. So he kicked it.

“I never kick a ball, honest to God, but I couldn’t pick it up. I wasn’t able to do anything to be honest with you.”

The injury was sustained during a shot-stopping session, in much the same manner he dived to stop Colin Fennelly’s shot in the draw final on September 9th.

“A dislocated shoulder is a very serious injury in the sense that your bone pops out of its socket. It doesn’t just pop out, all the muscles, all the ligaments went with it.

“I thought the roar of the crowd and the adrenaline rush would get me through. It got me so far but it didn’t get me far enough.”

Skehill was still devastated yesterday by his inability to influence proceedings as he would if fully fit. “To be honest, I’m kicking myself an awful lot, in the sense that you’d even be questioning your faith as to why these things happen.

“But it’s the life of a sportsman, isn’t it?”

The surgeon has recommended operations on both shoulders and a winter of rehabilitation but these procedures may be postponed due to club championship commitments.

Despite the disappointment of losing an All-Ireland final, Skehill believes the year as a whole can already be looked upon with a degree of satisfaction.

“We often hear of the ’87 and ’88 teams and we feel like we’re in their shadows a bit and we’re trying to make our own history and our own future. I think we restored the pride in the jersey.”

The young goalkeeper’s support for the Cunningham management also remains unwavering.

“And my heart does go out to Anthony in the sense that he’s lost two finals after replays but he’s a lion of a man and he’s got a massive heart. And I guarantee you, as sure as I’m sitting here, we’ll be back next year. That’s the God’s honest truth.”

“In my own head I failed it (fitness test), I failed it miserably. I got about five or six injections, took Panadol, Difene but they didn’t work . . . I genuinely tell you if I was fit I would have caught Eoin Larkin’s shot

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