NOBODY said it was going to be easy for Cian Hanley to make his Aussie Rules breakthrough with the Brisbane Lions, but he never imagined just how hard his first year Down Under would actually be. Thirteen months ago the talented Ballaghaderreen footballer tore his cruciate knee ligament in what turned out to be his swansong with the Mayo minors in an All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry at Croke Park. Eight weeks later he arrived in Brisbane to begin his new life as an Australian Rules footballer at the same club where his brother, Pearce, is now established as a fully-fledged AFL superstar.
The early stages of Cian’s time in Queensland were spent with Brisbane’s physios as his knee recovered and he worked his way, slowly and surely, towards beginning his Aussie Rules career.
But just as one problem was being solved, another flared up.Fast forward to earlier this summer and Cian, who only turned 19 back in March, found himself in hospital in Sydney recovering from surgery to reconstruct his groin muscle. The long, painful road to recovery had to begin all over again.
“It’s been tough,” admitted the Ballaghaderreen teenager recently during a three-week visit at home. “I had a knee operation four weeks before I landed in Australia but my goal was to get that sorted out and have a big year in 2015. “I went working with the physios immediately, setting goals, training away on the bike and doing walking drills, building up my knee after the surgery. Then, a few months later, my groin started acting up. “I was trying my best all year but the groin just kept nagging away at me. “I haven’t been able to train for the last two or three months so surgery was the last resort, and I had to have a groin reconstruction a few weeks ago. My body is my work so I had to do whatever it takes to get it right. “To be honest, I didn't train a lot with the Mayo minors because of groin problems so I haven’t ran a lot, injury-free, for 18 months. “Now I'm aiming to be back on the field by Christmas. I just want to start running and playing football again.”
DESPITE all the trials and tribulations of his time in Brisbane so far, it’s reassuring to hear just how determined Hanley is to get back on the field and how positive he is about the future. Having his older brother to lean on out there definitely helped when the going got tough, and the youngster also found some solace in small things that reminded him of happier times.
“The hardest part was when I was trying to get over the injuries, because you don’t feel like a player, you don’t feel part of the whole thing when you’re not playing. “But I remember one day we took a team photo, and I was in the full club kit with my boots on. That felt good, wearing my number 37 jersey and getting the boots on again. “I actually watched the Connacht Minor Final back twice as well. I had a good game that day and it felt good watching it back again. “Having Pearce out there is a massive help too,” he added. “I lived with him initially but have actually moved in with two other 19 year-olds now. He’s been really good to me but, at the same time, I will miss him, and I won’t miss him!” he laughed. “Ah no, he’s unreal. He had a tough year with injuries as well but in the last three or four games of the season he was brilliant. “Other teams in the AFL ‘tag’ the best player on the opposition team and Pearce is usually the guy who gets tagged. “He’s the Aidan O’Shea of the Brisbane team really.”
SPEAKING of Mayo footballers, Cian Hanley was in Croke Park (courtesy of a ticket from his Ballagh’ club-mate Andy Moran) to watch the recent All-Ireland semi-finals against Dublin. If things had worked out differently he could have been out there, maybe alongside Pearce, wearing the county colours.And, who knows, it may well happen some day. “I would like to play with Mayo again in the future but, right now, my focus is completely on Brisbane,” he replied when asked the obvious question. “They've been so good to me. “But it was only when I was sitting in Croke Park watching Mayo play Dublin that I thought, “I’d love to be involved”. There was such a buzz around the stadium, I couldn't believe it.” But right now that conversation is for another day.
Cian’s immediate focus is on keeping his place in the 45 players that the Brisbane Lions have on their list between their AFL group and their reserve squad. To that end, Pearce has been helping him with his ‘stationary skill work’ like handling, kicking and the technique of playing with the oval ball. Small steps in the right direction.
Watch this space.
Article Courtesy of The Mayo News
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