Mixing Business with Pleasure
As Brian Hurley sits and waits in the IT Carlow canteen for a three o’clock lecture, he admits he’ll miss the place when he finishes up later this year. There were easier degree options for him when he completed his level seven sports and exercise coaching course. None that would have entailed making a close to eight hour round drive every week for the last four years.
But none impressed him as much as the level eight business qualification he is currently seeking. Besides, he knew he would be in good hands in Carlow. Michael Dempsey, head of the college’s GAA academy and successful coach to Kilkenny hurlers, has been as helpful a mentor to him as the likes of Cahalane and Cleary in Castlehaven.
The text banter with boys from home about next week’s Sigerson Cup clash with Cork IT has already started and Hurley is loving it. He knew in deciding to study so far away he was stepping out of his comfort zone but saw it as providing him with a form of discipline.
“I looked at that as a reason to do it, maybe take a step away from the lads and do my own thing for a few years. It’s been fairly successful. It was a bit of a risk at the time but it did pay off for me.”
Whether it’s a Thursday or Friday, Hurley has grown accustomed to turning the car south. He’s experimented with a variety of routes back to Union Hall — even via Waterford “for the scenery” — but now sticks to getting to Durrow and then onto the M8. After that it’s plain sailing before the Dunkettle interchange, the south ring road and then onto the N71 passing Bandon, Clonakilty and Rosscarbery.
He might be only 21 but Mick O’Dwyer’s point about long drives being great for contemplation resonates with him. “After a match, you might be thinking you didn’t play as well as you might have. But on the drive back you have time to recap and isolate the bad things you did so you can work on them for the next day. You’re on your own on the road. It can be good.”
As much as giving his head peace, he’s learned to give his body it too. He enjoyed the Christmas break and got some sun early in January. After a more than notable debut senior season with Cork and leading Castlehaven to a senior county title, it made sense.
But then Hurley’s learned almost to a huge cost the importance of looking after himself. In 2010, he felt a pain in his back prior to the Munster minor final against Kerry. He later played an U21 final with ‘Haven but could barely jog. “I actually played the whole game but I was non-existent.”
A cortisone injection the day after freed him up to line out against Armagh in an All-Ireland quarter-final but the problem flared up again prior to the semi-final with Galway. “I know you’re not supposed to have too many injections in a year but that cleared it up for a good while and there was no problem in the final.”
But back in Carlow, it returned. Hurley put it down to not stretching enough — “and everything seized up”.
Through Dempsey and Cleary’s contacts, he was assessed and was almost on the point of being operated on for what diagnosed as a stress fracture to his spine in the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry.
But Dr Pat Kiely felt he was too young to undergo such a drastic measure. “At my age at the time, I didn’t know how serious it was and I can remember my father and mother being suspicious about it. They were mad that I was still playing ball. Pat Kiely wouldn’t do surgery because I was too young for it so fair dues to him. I got a programme for a month of stretching and going on the bike and it freed up my hamstring, my gluts and all up through my back. I felt it getting better and better. I’m still doing the stretching. I think it’s healed.”