Donegal county hurler Jamesie Donnelly did a lot of thinking to himself when he lay for the best part of three weeks in a hospital bed. Life had quickly taken on a new meaning for the 32-year-old county hurler. Getting back to playing hurling wasn’t something that was on his list of priorities.
So when he came on as a second half substitute for Gavin Browne during Donegal’s recent game in Wicklow, it was an emotional moment in the life of the Killygordon man.
Just 13 weeks earlier, he was involved in a freak workplace accident involving a chainsaw. He almost lost his life.
In between different surgeries on severe leg injuries, and medical care, he wasn’t sure what the future would hold.
“It was that bad,” he said. “I nearly lost my life that day. Had the chainsaw been an inch or two higher, it could have cut into my spinal chord.
“As it was, there was damage to some nerve endings. I needed over a hundred stitches. I had three operations. But I was lucky, very lucky.”
Jamesie works as a sub-contractor for ESB, clearing away trees and hedging from power-lines and cables. He plans to return to work in the coming days. Miraculously, he got back to playing competitive hurling quicker than he could ever have imagined.
The accident last December occurred shortly after Jamesie’s marriage to his partner Claire. Around that time, he’s just undergone key-hole surgery on a knee problem and had put in some extra training in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be able to train after the operation.
“I knew that I’d be laid up for a while,” he explained. ”I was in very good shape then and I’d done a fair amount of work in the gym. So when I’d the accident and I was back in hospital, that probably helped with my recovery.”
Jamesie spent almost three weeks in Letterkenny University Hospital. He remembers all too well the severity of his injuries and the initial fears of what they would mean to his life and those around him. He recalls moments with his two children, Ella May (4) and James Patrick (2), and how for them, it must have been like winning the lottery, knowing that their daddy was going to be okay.
Jamesie has been a key player for his club and county for a number of seasons now. His return to county colours in Wicklow last Sunday week came after a period of weeks during which he’d knuckled down to training on his own before joining in with the rest of the county squad for a handful of sessions.
“It’s probably thanks to Ardal (McDermott - Donegal manager) and the physio Colm O’Neill that I was able to get back for the Wicklow game,” he said.
“I’d suggested to the manager that seeing as it was a dead-rubber game, I could get some game-time to see how I’d go. Thankfully it went okay.”
Jamesie was part of a Donegal side that survived relegation from Division 2B of the Allianz National Hurling League following a play-off last season. However, he admits that the team face a difficult task to stay up again this year.
“To be fair, we have been without a number of key players this season,” he said.
“At times there have been maybe eight or nine of the players not available for games, so it hasn’t been easy.
“Slowly but surely, these players are coming back. I’m not sure how we’ll be fixed for this weekend, but hopefully, we’ll get the right result.”
Donegal face Wicklow again, this time in Newry on Saturday, where the prize for the winners will be safety in Division 2B next season. The beaten side will play the winners of Division 3A (Roscommon) in a play-off.
Despite last year’s battle to avoid the drop, Jamesie had enjoyed a fine season with Donegal and won a third Nicky Rackard All-Star award.
He was also the joint winner of the Donegal Sports Star of the Year award in the hurling category along with Ronan McDermott.
“I was player of the year as well with MacCumhaills and I also got an appreciation award,” he said.
“It’s important to thank my wife and my mother (Helen) who were there to collect those awards for me because I wasn’t able to attend on those nights,” he added.
Those were difficult days for Jamesie. And in the initial days after his horrific accident, he feared the worse. He’s just thankful he’s okay to talk about doing every-day things again.
“I was always someone who would plan away at things,” he added.
“I’d be planning the future and looking ahead.
“But that’s all changed now. I know how lucky I’ve been. I’d be looking ahead to games. Now I’m taking it one training at a time and then it’s on to the next one.
“You just don’t know what’s ahead of you,” said Donnelly, whose return will be welcomed by Donegal