WHEN Kate Keaney took a blow to the head and landed awkwardly on the turf at The Dub, Queen’s University’s GAA pitch, in a challenge game against Dublin, she didn’t think anything was amiss.
A Sports Science student at University of Limerick, the Donegal town woman briefly lost consciousness.
Initially she felt fine and made her way back Shannonside, but then it hit.
“When I got back to Limerick I was rushed to hospital with a delayed concussion,” she says now of that evening at the end of January when the Donegal ladies were preparing for the start of the National Football League.
She missed eight weeks of her course, meaning she has to repeat her final semester from January 2016.
“That was a really tough part of it. I couldn’t do any of my thesis and now I have to go back next year to repeat.”
Picture caption: Kate Keaney, above right, with Donegal ladies team-mate Geraldine McLaughlin, after they defeated Monaghan in the Ulster final last month.
As if things weren’t frustrating enough, she had to watch from the sidelines as UL won the O’Connor Cup. She had been the vice-captain.
“I suppose it’s one good thing now that I’ll get another year of College football,” she says.
There were darks days during her recovery. Roisin McCafferty, from Termon, was a solid support as she made a comeback. Her Donegal team-mate had suffered a similar injury in the past and provided a good soundboard.
Keaney was treated by Dr Eanna Falvey, the Director of Sports and Exercise Medicine at Sports Surgery Clinic, who is also the team doctor with the Irish Rugby team and the Irish Amateur Boxing team.
Keaney says: “The rehab was slow and frustrating. There were just things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t do any exercise for a couple of months. It was very slow.
“Daily things like watching TV was uncomfortable; my memory and focus were a bit off and I was having blurred vision.
“It was a horrible injury. It wasn’t nice at all. There were just wee things you take for granted I couldn’t do.”
Her first game back was the Division 2 League final against Armagh at Parnell Park, coming on as a half-time replacement for Nicole McLaughlin. It was a pretty harrowing experience, though, as Donegal lost 4-18 to 4-06.
Keaney was just glad to don the green and gold again.
She says: “You learn things from being injured and you get a different insight to the team.
“We have such a strong panel and we all have great faith in one another. Being out really makes you appreciate what you have when you’re playing.
“I’m hungrier now. I’m going well in training, but the competition for places is as high as it has ever been. No-one wants to be on the sideline now. Everyone is battling for a place in the team.”
Armagh await again for Donegal and Keaney this Saturday, this time at St Tiernach’s Park in Clones in an All-Ireland quarter-final.
With their tails up after the capture of a first-ever Ulster SFC title, Donegal are aiming to make up for their last meeting with the Orchard.
Keaney says: “That day, Armagh showed what kind of team they can be if they get the space and the time. We had a very good League up until that day. It would have been worse if we hadn’t taken anything out of that game, but it was probably the wake-up call that we needed.
“They have improved since then and have had a good run in the qualifiers. That defeat might give us a bit of extra motivation. There is a great rivalry between us now and we’re really looking forward to the game.
“We know that we need a similar performance, if not a better one than the Ulster final against Armagh because they’re a top side too. It’s a task that we’re looking forward to.”
Geraldine McLaughlin blasted 2-7 past Monaghan in the Ulster final as Donegal took receipt of the O’Harte Cup for the first time last month. Now, the Tír Chonaill girls are eyeing up further glory.
Keaney says: “Our main goal at the start of the year was to win Ulster. The type of team we are we just want to keep bettering ourselves. We’re enjoying it and there is a great buzz about the place.
“We want to push on from there and we know that we have more in the team. The boys had us back focussed and we’ve been back full swing since.
“We didn’t win a competitive game last year and Davy said that 2014 was all about building for 2015. When we met back in October we set out our goals, but we want to push on now; we’re not just happy to sit back with the Ulster title.
“We want to play the best we can now for as long as we can.”Tags: