Waterford's Brian O'Halloran learned a lot from tough days at the office

Mental fortitude comes in all shapes and sizes as it does in the 5ft10in, 77kg frame of Brian O’Halloran, writes John Fogarty.

The vagaries of inter-county hurling will never be lost on him. As a Leaving Cert student, he made a point-scoring senior championship debut in a Munster final replay win in 2010. Four weeks later and he was being hauled off just over 21 minutes into an All-Ireland semi-final.

“A disaster personally for myself,” he recalls. “Davy (Fitzgerald) had good faith in me and things were going well in training. Just didn't work out on the day. Probably in hindsight wasn't ready physically or mentally. I was only 18 at the time. Playing against seasoned campaigners. Very disappointing day personally and I suppose we lost that day as well, wasn't easy. That was my first year. I wasn't long experiencing the highs and lows of inter-county in a way.

“I know you're thinking was there mental scars or whatever. The year after I got a bad injury and that was the most frustrating thing that I wasn't able to kind of right the wrongs or show that I was made of something.

“I wouldn't give out about Davy for that (substitution). He made the call and at the time I'd good confidence in myself and Davy had good confidence in me. Came up against a great Tipp team, Paul Curran a brilliant full back. The confidence of youth, I wasn't really thinking of the negative things that could happen. I was just thinking I'll go out here now and Croke Park will suit me. But inter-county isn't like that. I wasn't long finding out that.

“I learned a lot from that day in Croke Park. It was a tough day. It was probably tough on my family and stuff like that. As a youngster, reading tough things about you in the paper and stuff like that. It's hurling at the end of the day, you learn from things.”

The following March, O’Halloran tore his hamstring tendon and missed the year. Upon his return, he tore his ankle ligaments. “I suppose I would have had the name of being injury-prone but it was actually only two major injuries and they took it out of the body.”

An early substitution in an All-Ireland semi-final was nothing compared to those injuries. “I'd two or three years of bad injuries after that. That was the most frustrating thing. They set me back a lot more than the mental side of it.

“There were times when I was thinking I should be in America on a J1 or I should be in Cheltenham in March, not rehabbing for National League. But Derek (McGrath)'s always on about persistence and bide your time and stay at it. He was a very talented minor, he said he never stayed at it and he regrets it. My greatest fear was being over in America, seeing Waterford win an All-Ireland or something like that, knowing I could have had some part to play in it.

“I don't think I could live with the regrets of that as such. I wanted to do as much as I could for as long as I can. If I wasn't wanted or if I wasn't required, so be it but I wanted to stay on my own terms.”

The Clashmore/Kinsalebeag man is now presented with another psychological challenge regularly coming on as a substitute. He says he’s “grateful” and “lucky” to be called on. “I've seen someone before describe coming on as seeing the exam before you take it. I don't know if it's like that now but you can see things, but then you mightn't want to read too much into it either because you might be asked to take on a different role than what you thought you might so you're taking certain things and not thinking about other things.

“I've come on a good bit as a sub over the last two years and while I wouldn't say you'd ever get used to it or have it down to a tee, I do have that bit more experience coming on than some lads.”

Needless to say, the 26-year-old is preparing to be named in the team this evening. “I was asked, 'How do you prepare as a sub?' – to be honest, you've to prepare like you're starting because there could be an injury after two minutes. Even if I'm not named in the side on Friday night I'll still prepare like I'm starting on Sunday because I could come on after a minute.

“We don't have black cards but there could be an injury or a sending off or an early tactical change, and if you're there thinking, 'Oh, I'm not coming on until the last 10 minutes', and suddenly you're called on, you're cold, you're mind is in a different place.”

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