KILKENNY star, John Tennyson has gone through the darkest hours, but he is firmly on the road to recovery now and the hope is that he might get to play some hurling before the season is out.
For the second time in three years the teak tough Carrickshock man needed surgery after severing the cruciate ligament in his right knee. While the operation went well, the knee became infected subsequently and the player’s recovery was knocked back a couple of months.
“The last six weeks have been very good,” an upbeat John told the ’People. “The knee is feeling good and the strength in the leg has improved 100%. I am feeling optimistic and good about things again.”
The happy-go-lucky mood is a far cry from January, February and March. Those months were the darkest times, in every sense.
An infection inside the knee threw the 26-year-olds world was up in a heap. He was down, wondering would he ever get out of the bad place he was in.
Then with the arrival of Spring came the start of the news that banished the dark clouds. Orthopaedic surgery, Dr Tadhg O’Sullivan, told Tennyson he was ready to go again. The knee was structurally sound. He was fit to start rehab.
“I was very, very frustrated during the early part of the year, but things are looking up now,” John admitted. “Really I have only about six weeks of rehab done, but it is amazing how far things have come. Another six would do a lot for me.”
There is no quick fix solution following surgery to repair a cruciate ligament. Tennyson faces months of work in the gym and on the training field before he can think about a comeback.
“I am thinking long term,” he said of the place he finds himself in at the moment. “Hopefully the hurling year will not be wiped out on me. I will be very disappointed if I don’t get back hurling this season.
“There could be more setbacks, you just never know. All going well I would hope to play some hurling this year with my club. I am not setting a deadline, but you have to set yourself a target.
“When I am at games and on the sideline it hurts to see what I am missing. Most players are bad spectators. I am. You want to be in there. Playing is where you get the kicks, the real satisfaction. I miss it badly.”
Tennyson couldn’t believe his bad luck when he severed the cruciate in his knee for the second time during a training session with Kilkenny in July. While intensive treatment with medical guru Ger Hartnett at his base in Limerick got him through the All-Ireland final against Tipperary and later the local club championship, the former minor and under-21 star knew he needed surgery to repair the damage.
He played on an on with his club, eventually featuring in the final against O’Loughlin-Gaels. That game ended in defeat, just like the All-Ireland final.
On November 4 the player had surgery to repair the cruciate.
Tennyson was single minded in his attitude and approach afterwards. Then fate went against him. The knee became sore. It was around the time of the snow and real hard weather at the latter end of 2010 and the player put it down to the cold.
Dr O’Sullivan decided to investigate. He found there was an infection inside the knee. Tennyson spent a week in hospital during which he was administered antibiotics intravenously.
“I didn’t have a clue what was wrong,” John admitted. “I was blaming the snow and cold weather for the pain. It never crossed my mind that anything was wrong. After the operation I had done everything perfectly. I was unfortunate.”
Down time followed. Tennyson had to rest the knee during December and January. He tried to kick off the recovery again in February.
However, any time he put the knee under pressure it swelled up, filled with fluid. Further rest was the cure, he was advised.
Most of February and March was spent icing the knee, getting down the swelling and rid of the fluid. Tennyson’s physical activity was confined to a bit of swimming.
The next appointment with the surgeon was during the first week in April. The fluid was nearly all gone. Bingo! He was told the knee was structurally sound.
“I was given the go ahead to start my rehab,” he said with obvious delight in his voice. “Things have gone very well since. I have gone through a lot, but at long last I feel I am getting somewhere.
“After doing the cruciate last Summer and doing all the hard work with Ger Hartman before the All-Ireland I was hoping for a good recovery, but it wasn’t to be. In the dark times you can feel there is no hope. But once I started back I began to pick up.
No more setbacks
“Hopefully there will be no more setbacks. I have had more than my fair share of things going against me. I would love to be fit and back playing.
“I have set no deadline as such. The structure and fate of the knee is paramount. The knee will tell me when I can come back. I can’t push it or put the knee at risk.
“I need to get it right. I am only 26 and hopefully I have a few more years of playing at the highest level ahead of me.”
While he was determined in his approach to the rehab work, most of which is being done in the gym at Hotel Kilkenny, he admitted it could be tough and lonely at times.
“The reward at end will be to be able to play again,” John said.
There would be no deadline for a return. When he is ready to come back he will be back.
“When the knee is right I will be back,” he explained. “If the knee is not right I can’t come back. I am in a happy place knowing the knee will come right. The surgeon has assured me of that.”
While Tennyson dragged himself through the All-Ireland and later the entire Kilkenny championship, the additional pressure he put on the knee made no difference. The cruciate was gone. Surgery was the only path to recovery.
“The only difference that made was that it put the operation back two months,” John explained. “That was a great time. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I got to play in a county senior final with my club. I didn’t want to miss out on something big like that. That feels such a long time ago now.
“Hopefully there will be many more hurling days ahead for me. Right now my career is about working hard to get the knee right. When I achieve that I will take the next step with club and county.”