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Monday 10 December 2018

'Bionic man' Broderick delighted with rebuilding of Carlow's new age dreams

Deadly accurate: Carlow freetaker Paul Broderick slots a free in their Leinster SFC win over Kildare
Deadly accurate: Carlow freetaker Paul Broderick slots a free in their Leinster SFC win over Kildare

Paul Broderick doesn't say it as a boast and he is not claiming to be the bionic man either. "I've had ten surgeries related to football since I've been 18," he reveals.

Maybe all those lay-offs explain why this 31-year-old 'veteran' has no inclination to give up inter-county football any year soon: he's fresh and he's hungry. Here's another reason: playing for Carlow has never been more fun.

And, for all the hilarity of Seán Murphy with his killer quips, we're not talking about dressing-room banter alone.

You see, when you've spent so many years losing so many matches, the new-found habit of winning is enough to make the soul giddy.

Broderick has been pivotal to Carlow's most recent triumphs: he amassed 1-8 (5f) against Louth and then 0-11 (9f) against Kildare in a brace of back-to-back Man of the Match displays.

Turlough O'Brien
Turlough O'Brien

Thanks to his exploits over the last 18 months, his prodigious left boot is no longer a national secret. All a far cry from his injury-addled earlier days.

"It's nearly like a running joke among the boys," he explains, adding how - during the first two years of Turlough O'Brien's tenure - he probably played just two or three games. And yet he "hung in with the squad. I liked what was going on". He then mentions his ten dates with the operating theatre. Ten, really?

Ruptured

"Yeah," he confirms. "I've had knee; three ankle surgeries; I had a splenectomy; a collapsed lung; a ruptured bowel. I've just been unlucky."

His worst injury? "The spleen, without a doubt."

It happened in a challenge match for Tinryland. Broderick was 18, a couple of weeks out from his Leaving Cert.

"They rang me because they'd only 15," he recalls. "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," he expands. "A good friend of mine, Shane O'Neill, was standing over me. Shane is an occupational therapist and he said, 'You need to get this man to a doctor'.

"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 (saying), 'Move left' and I couldn't move left. So, they sent me to Kilkenny. 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 with the spleen. 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.

"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 with no real friends there, repeating, so I knuckled down and it was a better Leaving Cert than I ever would have done."

Worst

In terms of physical damage, the spleen was his worst injury. "I wasn't sure what I was going to be able to do afterwards," he recalls - yet he was back playing for the Carlow U21s just over nine months later.

His second ankle operation, three years ago, constituted his toughest mental challenge.

"Jesus, is it worth it?" he started to think.

"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."

Today, when he's not firing over missiles from anywhere inside 50 metres, Broderick is a teacher at Heywood CS. Which happens to be in Laois - the county standing between Carlow this Sunday and an historic Leinster final place.

It's a winnable tie, in polar contrast to the "depths of despair some seasons" where Carlow might have lost six out of seven league fixtures, then crashed heavily in their two SFC outings.

"A lot of it comes with the fact that we're not used to winning, so we are enjoying it," Broderick confirms.

"But the lads are super in terms of man-management. They'll recognise the significance of something.

"Say, we beat Antrim (to seal promotion last March) ... we'd a short gap but it was very significant for us, that victory. We kind of blew the doors off the bus!" he concludes.

On Sunday he'll settle for blowing open the doors of history ...

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