A house, a cup and a pitch: why Brian Hurley is still playing football
Cork forward was told to quit the game in 2017 but has battled back from injury
Cork footballer Brian Hurley at the announcement of UPMC as official healthcare partner to the GAA/GPA. ‘It makes you a lot stronger person, let me tell you,’ he says of his injury problems. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile.
The four inches of hamstring he ripped away from the bone, the surgeries, the lost years, Brian Hurley has spoken of it all before but he’s never been asked about the tattoo.
It’s there on the Cork footballer’s inner arm, an impressive spectacle that snakes down from below his left shoulder to just above his T-shirt line.
Revealing it fully, he points to a boy, standing below the images of a house, a cup and a pitch.
“A young fella with a ball down in Union Hall pier looking out over the sea,” explained Hurley, who dreamed of those three simple things as a kid; home, football and cups. “It’s something that I got when I was injured to remind me of why I started playing football and where it all started for me. People don’t know what it is but that’s it. It’s Union Hall pier looking out, it’s where you come from. A few boats in the background and day-dreaming of cups.”
He’s 27 now and still day-dreaming of winning cups, with his club and with Cork, but he’s wiser too, battle hardened.
That’s what years of rehabbing and recovery will do to you, Hurley forced down a journey that, as it turned out, was more emotional and mental than physical.
The lowest point? Being told to quit the game in 2017 at the age of just 24 after fighting back from his first hamstring disaster only to suffer a recurrance. Or taking off a brace following his second surgery – he eventually convinced a specialist in London to do the operation – and realising his muscles had withered away.
Or all the time he spent in hospitals, clinics and medical centres around people with far more serious problems. Take your pick, they all took their toll.
“It makes you a lot stronger person, let me tell you,” said the Castlehaven man at the announcement of UPMC as official healthcare partner to the GAA/GPA. “Mine was a temporary injury. I met people who were a lot worse off, paralysed and what not. I have met them all. It opens your eyes to how lucky you are and it makes you a much more grateful person for what you have. And it still opens my eyes, stuff like the stairs, I can remember trying to get up the stairs and it would take me 10 minutes.”
Hurley runs up stairs now. Just because he can. Through perseverance – he was ‘never good in school’ but threw himself headlong into an investigation of the inner workings of the hamstring – and true grit, he’s back, a Cork footballer again.
His ‘new’ hamstring feels like it’s taut all the time, and he feels older generally than his 27 years, but he kicked three points against Dublin at Croke Park last July. For an hour Cork kept pace with the very best of them all that day. He was living again.
His rehabilitation complete, it’s about making up for lost time now. The same could be said of Cork who seemed to suffer almost in tandem with Hurley during those years as their form and fortunes nosedived.
“You were trying to do rehab and there was so much negativity around, fellas were saying, ‘Why would you be bothered? Wouldn’t you just go away and do your own thing? And it would have been very easy to say, ‘Yeah, you know what, you’re right’,” said Hurley.
“But I don’t know, I love football, I love Cork, no matter if they are going good or bad. I will still try to push it on and hopefully next year it can get more positive and more positive again. There are a lot of young lads coming through and other lads back, Ciaran (Sheehan) and Powts (Sean Powter), that is going to bring a massive positivity to the whole thing.”