GAA miracle man's long road to recovery
The first anniversary has passed, but for Mark McGovern the task of picking up the pieces and putting as many parts of his life together as he can continues.
Sitting in front of the 23-year-old Fermanagh man, it is harrowing to realise the impact one devious off-the-ball blow on a football field can have on a life.
Last month the Belcoo man returned to San Francisco for the first time since that almost-fatal Saturday night on June 25, 2011 when he played his first match with the Ulster GAA club on just the fifth day of his summer odyssey to the Pacific coast.
It was a trip for medical assessment and to catch up with the many people he can now call friends, who were so supportive through his trauma. But it was cut short as the painful memories of what had happened to him came flooding back. “I was actually going to stay over for the summer and help with coaching and training of the team,” Mark said.
“I didn't get a summer out of it last year. I wanted to experience it. I went back and I was kind of glad that I didn't stay. Even three weeks was long enough... too many bad memories. Sleep at night wasn't great,” he added.
Mark hasn't ruled out returning again some time. His assailant is the focus of a police investigation now. “I don't know, maybe time will heal it. At the minute I am happy to be home,” he said.
At home the impact is even more pronounced. He admits that relationships with family and friends have all changed as a result of the blow.
“Relationships have just gone. Everything has just left me. My relationship with my family just isn't the same as it was. My girlfriend and I have broken up because of this.”
The frustration of not being able to do what always came naturally to him may never leave him. He accepts the word of so many doctors that he should never play football again. But that doesn't make it easier. “I've accepted that now. I'm now coaching, I'm still involved,” Mark said.
Doctors have also told him that 95% of his capacity has been restored and that eventually he will make a 100% recovery.
“It's been said by many doctors that it's a miracle,” he said. “Honestly, I'm just glad I'm here today.”
Mark McGovern was speaking at the Croke Park launch of a video on concussion in sport in Croke Park to promote Acquired Brain Injury Ireland's concussion awareness campaign.
Mark McGovern (23) left the Fermanagh squad last year to go and play football for the Ulster GAA club in San Francisco.
He had only been in California for five days when he was severely injured in an off-the-ball incident in the game between the Ulster GAA Club and the San Francisco Celts last June.
The Belcoo man, who was hospitalised and put in an induced coma, is recovering steadily.