Mooney ready to shake off the shackles

15 Dec

Published by, 15 December 2012

JOHN MOONEY WAS at home while his Ireland team-mates celebrated at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai. When those same team-mates were willing the rain clouds to fade faster than the Sri Lankan daylight so that they could fight to the last at the T20 World Cup, Mooney was at home again.

Injured again.

The man who hit arguably the most important shot in Irish cricketing history, the final boundary off England’s James Anderson at the 2011 World Cup to spark a party the likes of which Bangalore will never see again, has been a bystander for most of the team’s recent milestones.

Mooney almost laughs as he reels off his injury list. “As long as I’ve been playing cricket, I’ve never seen anyone with a grade two hamstring tear from playing cricket,” he says of the injury which cut short his involvement at the T20 qualifiers.

That was only the beginning. Add in a thumb dislocated in taking a catch against Afghanistan and then a snapped tendon in the middle finger of his bowling hand, the latter of which sidelined him for 12 weeks and ruled him out of the World Cup, and you could understand if he feels a bit sorry for himself when asked to reflect on 2012.

That’s not Mooney though. He sees the bigger picture, both in terms of what the team has achieved without him and in setting his most recent disappointments within the broader context of his career as a whole.

“I’m fairly philosophical on it if I’m being honest. Over the past two or three years, I’ve been outrageously lucky.

“I’ve trained really hard but when you reach a good bit of form, it seems that decisions go your way — other players drop you and all those kind of things. But just this year, things turned for me and I didn’t get that bit of luck that I’ve had in the last few years.

I wouldn’t change anything and I wouldn’t sit back and dwell on the fact that I couldn’t play in the Twenty20 World Cup. We’ve got plenty of other tournaments going forward and I still believe that I’ve got another four or five good years left in me for the team. This has just been one minor little blip on the road.

Maybe, he muses, another player would have avoided the two hand injuries that blighted his summer.

“They were two good catches that I took. Both times I went to celebrate the catch and when I looked up, I knew there was something wrong and looked at my finger.

“Other people might not have taken the catches — that’s the way I look at it as well. I got the catches for the team but it was just unfortunate for me that I hurt my fingers.

“That’s the game.”

If that’s the game, that’s also the summation of a man who has racked more than a century of caps for his country. Such numbers don’t come without commitment; the kind of commitment that can even lead to a wedding being postponed once or twice.

Fortunately his fiancée Helena, who he marries later this month, knows what she’s dealing with.

The first two were moved because of cricket, so Helena my fiancée put her foot down and said we’re getting married at Christmas because that’s the only time of year when Irish cricketers are guaranteed to be at home. I can’t wait.

It will be the perfect prelude to a new year, one which is already filling up with plenty of challenges for a fit and firing Mooney. There’s the climax of another World Cup qualification campaign as Ireland look to top the World Cricket League as well as a pre-Ashes warm-up against Australia “A” and the RSA Challenge one-day international against England in Malahide next September.

If the circumstances are right, Mooney might even have another go at breaking into England’s county cricket scene. A stint at Sussex earlier this year was short-lived due to a combination of injury and responsibilities with his home club here in Dublin, North County.

“I’d like to go back over not so much for financial reasons but just to prove to myself that I can mix it with those boys week in, week out.

“Obviously with success you get the financial rewards but as a top sportsman, it gets to the stage where you just want to achieve your goals as a sportsman and the money will look after itself.

That’s certainly the way I look at it. I’d like to be respected within the game and play at the highest level. Whatever comes after that is a bonus.

He turns 31 in February, and though he has little left to prove to anyone in Irish cricket, Mooney’s not done proving himself to himself yet.

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