It wasn't supposed to be like this, not for Paul Corry. The Dubliner had high hopes for his return home.
Having signed with Shamrock Rovers after an injury plagued stint in England, turning his career around was the priority now that he was fit again.
After a fresh set-back Corry is still still struggling to return to full fitness, a start in the EA Sports Cup against Longford Town recently ended a wait of over a year and a half to get into an XI for a competitive game.
His comeback was curtailed after a training ground injury, the troubled knee that hastened the end of the English chapter of his career struck again.
“It’s certainly not been ideal”, Corry said at the AIG Heroes Event on Tuesday.
“I had a frustrating time in the UK between not playing at Sheffield Wednesday and the injury then with Northampton, I was coming back to get a bit of consistency in my game and in my life.
“It was frustrating because I had a good pre-season and then just a little niggle in the knee, I recovered from that and then had a tear in the knee.
“It’s been stop/start and probably not the way I envisaged or saw it working out, I have kind of come over that and played 75 minutes against Longford and 20 minutes the week before against Limerick”
Despite getting that start against Longford, the Dubliner knows he’s still a long off where he needs to be:
“I wouldn't say I’m fit, I’m far from it that was my first competitive start in 19 months so it is really baby steps for me, I have to manage the load I put through my leg, I do have to be careful.
“For me it's managing on a day to day basis and making sure that the surrounding muscles are strong to take the heat off the knee.”
Corry kept a low profile after the set-back at Rovers, rehab deprives players of everything great about team sports, the training, the camaraderie, plotting the downfall of opponents week to week.
The Dubliner admits he become an introvert when nursing his knee, for him it easier that way:
“I don't like being around the manager or the staff when I’m injured you feel as if you’re no use, you are no use. He has to pick a team and a squad to go out an play on a Friday, if you’re not available you’re not much good to him.
“It is quite lonely, speaking to Luke Byrne about it and you do feel isolated from the rest of the squad, you have your own agenda and they’re working toward different objectives.”
The serious nature of Corry’s knee injury meant a slow and cautious rehab programme, there was no other way to recover from the destruction of part of his lower leg.
The Dubliner got the hat-trick of knee injuries, he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, he also had a grade 3 tear of his lateral cruciate ligament and a grade 2 tear of his medial cruciate ligament not to mention a rupture in his meniscus.
10 days later he went under the knife for four hours to try and repair the damage. 45 staples were needed to patch up the knee after the operation.
Physically Corry was on the road to recovery, mentally the monotony of the rehab made time stand still:
“The majority of the rehab was done at Northampton, they train away from the stadium. I was stuck there with the physio and the rehab specialist.”
Corry pauses for a moment, before deciding to clarify the frustration he felt was no fault of the medical staff there to help him get back on the pitch:
“They wouldn’t like me staying I was stuck, I was working with them every day.”
The frustration was borne out of the never ending road to recovery which for the 26-year-old became depressingly repetitive:
“I’m putting a lot of hours in with the same people, there’s only so many conversations you can have with one person before the days become quite receptive and start to drag.
“You do become an introvert - you have to - you focus on yourself more so than the team, you don't spend as much time with the teammates as you’d like to.”
The loneliness of the extensive rehab program was alien to the former UCD midfielder, it seemed so far removed from everything that the beautiful game entails:
“Your job title and everything you do with football is always team orientated, when you’re injured its like becoming a golfer or a tennis player you’re working by yourself day in, day out.
“It was mentally challenging and extremely tough to overcome but I think the longer it goes on the more you get used to it, you just come in every day and try to put in the work and you try to see the improvements, when you do see the improvements, you see what you’re working towards.”
You can listen to the full interview on 98FM's League of Ireland Podcast.
Paul Corry was in Bluebell Community Centre today at the AIG Heroes event. The AIG Heroes initiative is part of the insurance company's community engagement programme and is designed to give support to local communities by leveraging their sporting sponsorships to provide positive role models and build confidence for young people.
More information at www.aig.ie.