FOR A SENSE of appreciation of preparing in a county hurling final, Ryan O’Dwyer only has to reflect on his ordeal twelve months ago.
On Friday 30 October 2015, he was assaulted outside a Birmingham nightclub and knocked unconscious. The 30 year-old suffered a fractured skull, a broken jaw and bleeding in the brain.
Next Saturday, 29 October 2016, the Dublin hurler will endeavour to help Kilmacud Crokes land the senior hurling title against Cuala in Parnell Park.
It’s quite the contrast.
“I’m very lucky with the people that were surrounding me,” admits O’Dwyer.
“Chris Thompson, my family and my teammates, they are the three that got me back to where I am.
“I do appreciate it, even though some of them will be playing with Cuala there, next weekend, but I do appreciate them.
“Where I am today, it’s all down to the people who are surrounding me.”
O’Dwyer was in Birmingham with his former Dublin team mate Maurice O’Brien, the pair having stopped off for the night en route to taking in the Rugby World Cup final in Twickenham.
He has no memory of the unprovoked attack and after spending a week in hospital, journeyed home to Ireland.
The recovery process was a tough and difficult ordeal.
Ryan O’Dwyer and Mark Schutte ahead of this weekend’s Dublin county senior hurling final
Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE
“I always say it was easier on me than it was on the people surrounding me, especially my fiancée.
“If she had put a pillow over my head and smothered me I wouldn’t have blamed her. I was a horrible person, my whole personality changed. I know a lot of people say I don’t have a good personality anyway!
“But it totally changed. I was really irritable, really aggressive, for no reason. If I was chatting to you at Christmas I’d have said, ‘ah, I’m 100 per cent right now, but looking back now, at Christmas, I was still all over (the place).
“It’s only recently I’ve done a little bit of reading into it. With brain injuries, you could get a brain injury and I could get a brain injury and it’s two totally different reactions from it.
“Louis Theroux was on RTE there last week, did anyone see that? I think it was last Monday night, he was doing a show on brain injuries and my fiancée was in tears, she was saying, ‘that was you’.
“There was a woman there, from some part of England, and she was having a row with her husband and getting real aggressive with her kids and she hadn’t seen the kids in a while. Then they interviewed the kids about it.
“Cliodhna said, ‘that was you’. I didn’t realise it, you don’t realise it when it’s happening to yourself. It’s a very scary thing.”
A couple of symptoms still linger.
“I have no sense of smell whatsoever. No sense of smell.
“And forgetfulness, if I’m having a chat with someone I could forget what I’m talking about. It’s a simple thing.”
Get closer to the stories that matter with exclusive analysis, insight and debate in The42 Membership.
Become a Member
O’Dwyer made his comeback to Dublin hurling colours in May in the Leinster championship against Wexford.
Dublin hurler Ryan O’Dwyer during their Leinster quarter-final against Wexford
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
He pays tribute to the medical experts advising him.
“Donncha O’Brien one of the neurosurgeons I was dealing with – I was dealing with three of them – but he was telling me at the start that I had to stick to a certain plan.
“And for the first time ever I actually did what a doctor told me to.
“He told me the risks afterwards and said you have to be aware of your body and what you’re brain is telling you and what it is not telling you and you only get one chance and don’t take anything for granted.
“So it made me more aware. There is a risk associated with it, but I think it is just to listen to my body and be aware of getting a slap or running into the wrong people.
“When I knew I was allowed to go back hurling Donnncha O’Brien had said ease into it, try avoid slaps. But then I said it to Chris and he said that’s when you would get injured, when you are holding back, that’s when you do get a slap.
“And he said for your own sake don’t change your game. And I had to ask myself what got me here to where I am.
“I know I’m not the best hurler out there but I’m playing at a reasonably high level and what got me there is the way I play so I said I wasn’t going to abandon that.”
Saturday affords Kilmacud Crokes the chance to land a third Dublin senior hurling crown in five years.
Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE
“Like I said, I’m very lucky with how things have worked out. I didn’t know what was happening a few weeks after.
“It would mean a lot to win it at any stage. I suppose if we do win I’ll look back and see the road I’ve traveled and say, ‘Jeez, I’m a stubborn man’.”
And irrespective of the result, the prospect of another campaign with Dublin in 2017 is something he would embrace.
I don’t like people asking me that, I still consider myself young,” laughs O’Dwyer.
“You get to an age where you say I’m going to go year by year now.
“And yeah I’m going to give it 100 per cent for the year coming and hopefully I stay injury free.
“If Ger (Cunningham) wants me I’ll definitely be giving it everything I can.”
The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!