Peers on the road to recovery
Defender Gavin Peers has won more challenges than most during the last eight years with Sligo Rovers and as the 2014 season approaches, he is ready to come out on top in another.
Peers, with 286 appearances under his belt with the Bit o’ Red, is on the road to recovery from a cruciate ligament injury sustained in last November's FAI Ford Cup final win over Drogheda United.
Faced up with the biggest injury of his career, the 28-year-old has shown the fortitude and courage famed with his time so far in The Showgrounds and is working each day to return to fitness.
Recalling the moment of injury in the Cup final, Peers admitted the immediate aftermath was littered with confusion.
“I was chasing Gavin Brennan I think it was and I checked back and felt my knee go from under me,” he said.
“I heard a snap and I felt a snap and the pain that came with it.
“But the pain sort of the went away soon afterwards. When I was back in the dressing room I started to feel better and even thought I could go back on. There was a thought I might have dislocated my knee and it popped back into place. But when I stood up I couldn’t stand properly on it so I knew then I wasn’t going to return.
“Back in the hotel afterwards the pain wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t really move and my knee was swollen.
“It ruined the celebrations because I had to just sit there that night without being able to move around properly. I went up to Alan Byrne in Cappagh Hospital in Finglas on the Monday morning from the Clarion Liffey Valley and he told me it couldn’t really be anything but a cruciate ligament injury.
“I knew it was going to be the case but it wasn’t the best news to hear when I got the results of the scan.
“We carried on the celebrations from the Cup final and I just tried to forget it for a while. But a couple of days later I knew I had to focus on trying to fit as soon as possible.”
From then on thoughts turned to recovery and the surgery required for a return.
There was a frustrating wait for Peers as his knee took time to correct itself for surgery, as happens with the type of injury. Going under the knife might be a daunting prospect but it couldn’t come soon enough for the Rovers defender.
He said: “I had to wait two weeks initially for my knee to straighten up but on 4 December I was able to have the surgery.
“It’s the biggest injury of my career. A couple of years ago I missed 10 weeks with the quad injury and I had a hamstring problem at the start of 2013 but apart from that I’ve been lucky.
“I was off crutches four days after leaving hospital and I was on the bike two weeks later.
“From leaving hospital they gave me a programme for recovery and I’ve been working on that with Ray Finan like working on the cross trainer, leg exercises, squats and that type of thing. We are pushing forward and you have to try to build the muscle back up.”
The Rovers first-team return to pre-season training in two weeks’ time as they prepare for the start of the new season but for Peers the work is already underway.
The programme with physio Ray Finan is arduous but the reward at the end of the tunnel is all the incentive the three-time FAI Cup winner needs.
“I’ve been in every day with Ray so I haven’t really had a break. I’ve been in the gym and I’ll be continuing the work over the next couple of months. I can start running in March all going well and then it’s just about building up my fitness.
“This is the best I’ve felt since the injury. Obviously you never want to have a serious injury but if there was a time to do it, it was in the final game of the season. As I said I’ve been lucky over the years. I’m just focusing on getting fit and getting back playing. I’m feeling better and I’ll be doing all I can.”
Rovers hold ambitions to have another year of success at The Showgrounds, Ian Baraclough has been busy assembling a squad of 18 players for 2014 and there are hopes of extending the run of a trophy in consecutive seasons to five.
“It is looking good,” Peers concluded.
“Pat’s are the team to beat I feel. They’ve made some good signings as well. But I think we’re in good shape. It bodes well to try and win more trophies.
“Evan, Jeff and I had a good battle over the year in defence last year. Injuries played their part. It finished up with Jeff and I as the pairing for the last part of the season and there’ll be lots of competition again this year.
“But I’m not thinking about that now, it’s just about getting closer to fitness. When I’m fit again, I know I’m good enough to get my place in the team.”