Ferbane’s David Nally under pressure from Clara’s Graham Guilfoyle (left) and Adam Kelly. Photo: Ger Rogers.

No regrets over near misses for Nally as Ferbane look forward

By Kevin Egan

If ever there was a moment that summed up the cruelty and injustice of sport, it was David Nally’s injury against Carlow in this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup final at Croke Park.

His flying block down on a Carlow clearance was an act of reckless bravery, the type of act that comes naturally to a player when a hugely important championship hurling game is in the balance. It only counts as brave, however, because of the personal risk attached and on this occasion, Nally paid the price for that risk.

Two metatarsal bones in his hand were smashed, and he could only look on as Carlow secured a dramatic win at the end of truly thrilling contest. As if to rub salt in the wound, two sideline cuts that would have been right up Nally’s street came and went during the time when he was off the field.

It was an injury that also cost Belmont dearly as their championship season derailed in his absence, but redemption could yet be on the horizon with the Ferbane footballers, after Nally played a vital role in the club’s extra-time win over Rhode a fortnight ago.

“It’s fully healed now and thank God for that,” he told the Offaly Independent ahead of this Sunday's SFC final against Tullamore.

“It’s a bad time of the year to be missing, summer months and championship games. It’s tough standing on the sideline when you are not able to do anything about it but thank God I got to get back for the last group game of the hurling and the semi-final.

“I’m 24 now and it’s probably the first injury I had and it was only three months. It’s just more awkward and unlucky the way it happened.”

If anything about an injury like that could be described as lucky, one silver lining for Nally, a trainee accountant, was that he had exams completed the previous week.

The silver lining for Ferbane was that it gave him a bit of extra time to kick a few footballs and to get his eye for the big ball back in.

“Your fitness and strength work would still be high, it’s just ball skills and getting the handpassing and kick passing right. I find it’ll take you a week or two to get that up to the level that other lads are up to. It’s just trying to keep a football in your hand as much as possible when you do come back,” he said.

“Because of the injury, I was back playing a bit of football before I was back playing hurling. Jack and Paddy (Clancy, fellow county hurlers and Ferbane footballers), I don’t know how they got their football back up so quick!”

When Ferbane made their breakthrough in 2019, Nally was just 20 years of age and he was part of a young cohort of players that looked to have the potential to add plenty more county titles.

It hasn’t worked out that way, but the manner of the defeats, and the quality of the opposition, means that he isn’t burdened by any sense that they left anything behind.

“You might take it for granted when you get to your first final that it’s going to happen every year, but you find out fairly quickly that it’s not the case. One year Tullamore gave us a fierce lesson but we lost twice on penalties as well.

“Tullamore and Rhode are two serious teams, and Edenderry showed what they can do when they put it together. It is competitive between four or five teams and there was a kick of the ball really between being in the final in the past two years and missing out. We can’t be too hard on ourselves.”

If Nally sounds philosophical, it’s because in sporting terms, he was accumulating experience even when he wasn’t playing himself. Older siblings Shane, James and Emer have all featured regularly with Offaly panels, to the point that even at a very young age, David could physically see his ambitions being played out in front of him, making them so much more real than they might be for his contemporaries.

“I didn’t have too far to look for inspiration,” David admits.

“We would have travelled up and down the country to the minor, U-21 games. Shane’s group got to the Leinster final in 2008 and lost that to Meath, and it was the same with James and Emer as well. Then, when you see your brothers playing for your county it’s hard not to get the same thing into your head, you want to reach that level yourself.

“It makes days like Sunday that bit easier as well. It’s grand because the morning of the match, the three of us might be home and it’ll be a lot easier to pass the time. When you are on your own, that’s where the nerves kick in.”

David Nally has proved already that nerves won’t be a problem. They only lead him to high-risk acts of heroism.