“This was going to be my last year playing college football”

Jim McGuinness. Michael Murphy. And more recently, Seán O’Shea and the All-Ireland winning Conor Meyler.

These are all names of men who have been lucky enough to lift the prestigious Sigerson Cup while representing their respective university teams at different stages of their football careers.

For Galway and NUIG full-back, Seán Mulkerrin, adding his name to this list was most definitely a dream. That was until a horrific knee injury in the first round of this year’s competition robbed him of that chance.

“It was a patella fracture,” said Mulkerrin. “The kneecap was in two. It wasn’t the cruciate or anything like that, but it will still be a good while I’d say, a good few months anyway (before I’m back).”

Mulkerrin’s stock was on the rise, having broken into the Galway senior setup in recent years and making the full-back position his own. But now, he’s on a different trajectory, as he faces a long road to getting back on the pitch to play ball.

“My goals were probably just to get my place on the Galway team, as well as the college team, and all of a sudden the goals changed drastically!” laughed Mulkerrin.

I’m still in a brace and on the crutches, so the plan is to get the brace off I think, but that is depending on the recovery of the patella itself. I’ll probably start rehab hopefully and take it from there. But as of now, I haven’t really got a proper timeline, it’ll just be a good while, six months anyways I’d say.”

Seán Mulkerrin in action for NUIG. Photo courtesy of Seán Mulkerrin.

Even outside of football, a knee injury as serious as this can be quite an inconvenience, as Mulkerrin is learning. Training to be a teacher, his injury has made things difficult in the classroom too.

“I was meant to be on a block of placement now, my final block of placement because I’m doing a Masters in Education,” said Mulkerrin.

I was meant to be doing 11 weeks and the injury actually happened the first week of the block, but you’re not allowed in the school with crutches, because of insurance I’m told. So I’ll have to be off them before I’m allowed to go back.”

As NUIG stormed to the final of this year’s Sigerson Cup, Mulkerrin admitted that it has not been easy watching on as his shot at college glory cruelly passed him by.

“I was the full-back on the team in 2018 that got to the final as well, and we narrowly missed out,” said Mulkerrin, with reflection.

This was going to be my final year of college football, so it was kind of make-or-break in terms of getting a Sigerson medal in the pocket. It’s tough alright just being on the sideline watching on.”

There is a distinct prestige that comes with winning a Sigerson medal, and Mulkerrin was quick to highlight the advantages that come with playing college football.

“Sigerson is a great competition, especially if you’re looking to push on to the inter-county stage, it’s a great platform to show what you’re able to do. It’s probably the next step down from inter-county standard-wise.

Plus, you’re playing with lads from all over the country, and getting to know lads outside of your usual bubble, which is great.”

Although he is set for a spell out of action, Mulkerrin has had plenty of support as his road to recovery begins, including from Galway GAA themselves.

“It’s been good. We’re keeping in contact,” said Mulkerrin.  “I’ve gone to the odd training just to check-in, and they’re always saying if I need anything just to give them a shout.

But for now, it’s just a matter of putting the leg up and letting it recover really, so once the brace is off and I’m off the crutches, I’ll be able to be a bit more involved. But at the moment I’m just on the couch with the leg up!”

Even though he is couch-bound for now, there’s no doubt Seán Mulkerrin will be back stronger when his recovery is complete.

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