Unluckiest man in GAA now feeling like the luckiest

Paul Broderick has been plagued by injuries but now has a Leinster semi-final to come

Paul Broderick is counting on both hands the number of times he's been under the knife. Twice around the knee, the ankle three times, the Achilles tendon. Then the time he needed his spleen removed, sustained a collapsed lung, and a ruptured bowel...

“Yeah, all football related,” he says. “I’ve been a bit unlucky.”

Only these days Broderick feels like the luckiest footballer in Ireland – if not the happiest, or indeed the sharpest.

For the second successive year, he’s been named GAA/GPA footballer of the month for May, and for good reason: in Carlow’s opening match against Kildare, Broderick took 11 shots at goal, and scored all 11 (nine from placed balls), a left boot to die for, on a day his team failed to hit a single wide.


At age 31 he’s served plenty of years in the shadows already, and talks like Sunday’s Leinster semi-final against Laois is the latest gift in a career he once thought might gently fade away: Carlow haven’t made a Leinster football final since 1944, and win or lose on Sunday, Broderick is embracing every moment.

“It’s nearly like a running joke among the boys in the dressing room, because the first two years under Turlough O’Brien (the Carlow manager), I probably played two, three games. But I hung in with the squad, liked what was going on.

“The worst injury was the spleen, without a doubt. A friendly game, when I was 18, a couple of weeks out from my Leaving Cert. They rang me because they’d only 15 players, I said I wasn’t going because I was studying. But anyway I went out, came on at half-time. Five minutes later, an innocuous type of elbow and I was down on the ground, winded.

"They took me off and I went into the dressing-room and I remember our club chairman at the time, Davy Power, was standing over me. And a good friend of mine, Shane O'Neill, was standing over me. And Shane is an occupational therapist, a health background, and he said 'You need to get this man to a doctor.'

“But anyway, I went to a doctor and he said to me ‘You’re not co-operating’ – but it was literally I couldn’t co-operate. He was like ‘Move left’ and I couldn’t move left or whatever. So they sent me to Kilkenny and you can imagine, a Sunday when you’re 18 and I wouldn’t have been the most academic, so I was happy enough with getting the Monday off, they said we’ll keep you in.

“I was in the X-ray room and I collapsed and they said ‘Ah yeah, best keep you in’. It was four o’clock in the morning that Sunday, I went for surgery. I was a week then not getting any better, so they opened me up again and figured that my bowel was perforated. And then during that surgery my lung collapsed.

“So I ended up missing the Leaving Cert. But as it turned out, I wouldn’t be the most academic but the next year I went to a school and I’d no real friends there, repeating. So I knuckled down and it was a better Leaving Cert than I ever would have done.”

Every ruptured spleen has a silver lining. Broderick stuck with Carlow, not without wondering would it be ever worthwhile – especially after his last ankle surgery, three years ago: “I was coming to that age, when I was kind of like ‘Jesus, is it worth it?’ Because you’re committing a lot of time. I was going out to training because I enjoyed it out there, but you’re still looking at other parts of your life, three or four nights a week, that you could be doing other things.

“Obviously I’m delighted now that I’ve stuck with it. Not that we’ve won anything, but from where we’ve come from to what we’re doing, it’s huge.”

The fact he’s teaching at Heywood secondary school in Laois only adds to the sense of wonder about Sunday’s game. He’s had his inspirations along the way too, people who will be in Croke Park in spirit.

“My grandmother, my aunt and my mother, who’ve all passed away in the last five years, they were huge. They never missed a Carlow game in their lives. My aunt, I’d say she was sent off as many times as I was! There was a passion there. The family are all like that as in they’re mad into it. I’m very lucky in that the support has always been there and the encouragement. But yet at the same time I never would have felt the pressure; if I wanted to give it up I would have been allowed.”

Broderick puts his accuracy done to one thing: practice – in terms of quality, not quantity. “It’s not that I do less now, but do it better. It’s nice to gauge as well, this is where I can kick from, that’s how many I got, and here’s what I need to work on. Whereas before I was just going out and kicking balls, twice a week. There was an element of freakishness to it. The main thing has been shot selection.”

In Croke Park on Sunday that could all be the deciding factor.