It was the GAA summer’s ‘look-away-now’ moment.
When Tom Parsons crumpled on the pitch in Castlebar in a most unnatural way, you didn’t need a medical degree to know his career was in jeopardy.
Aidan O’Shea was first on the scene. He put his hands on Parsons’ forehead and told him not to look down. Parsons knew in that moment just how bad things were.
But the Charlestown man is resilient. His career is testimony to perseverance.
He was deemed surplus to requirements in Mayo a few years ago and was living in the UK. But the door opened again and he returned to establish himself as one of the finest midfielders in the game.
However, coming back from this, which has seen him have three operations as well as have a cadaver’s Achilles placed in his knee, would be his finest feat yet.
“Within the first 24 hours I had an operation to put everything back into place and align everything, which was a serious operation,” Parsons said.
“Since then I’ve had two reconstructive operations. The first reconstruction and reattaching one of my calf muscles on the lateral side of my knee. And then the more recent one after going through all that rehab was three weeks ago, reconstructing the ACL, the posterior and anterior cruciate.”
The road will be long and hard but featuring in next summer’s championship remains his goal. No stone has been left unturned to achieve that.
He’s been given all the time he needs from his employers, Jacobs Engineering, to rehab while he’s been reaching out to sportsmen who have suffered similar injuries.
Former Springbok Jean de Villiers has been in touch. Connacht forward Eoghan Masterson also called around to his house to offer support.
Mentally he’s waging war too. When Mayo were launching their 2019 jersey Parsons was present.
Wearing that jersey for real remains his driver.
“You could all call me crazy if I said I was targeting the league next year; I couldn’t challenge you on that.
“But to play some part in next year’s championship, whether it’s coming on as a sub or some role, definitely is on my horizon. It’s something that I’ll be very determined to do.
“I suppose with an injury like this and the amount of energy that you put into this injury, you definitely don’t take shortcuts and maybe come back a week or two early.
“You see out the full nine months from your last surgery, at a minimum, and then take it from there. But I was lucky enough to launch the new Mayo jersey this week.
“And I accepted to do that because it gives me a great visualisation of what it feels like, and what hopefully it will feel like to put on that new jersey in 2019.”
It helps that his wife, Carol Hopkins, is a physio. Parsons has put her to work too.
“We got married last December. When you say those words, ‘for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health’ she got a rude awakening there!”
Despite the horror injury no one has told him that a return to county football is out of the question.
“I suppose nobody wants to. At this stage people want to make you comfortable in the fact of getting over surgeries,” he reasoned.
“And certainly surgeons and doctors don’t want to be giving you that information even before you have got through your surgeries, because you do need huge motivation, drive, energy and commitment to go through the rehab stages, so it would be ill-practice of somebody to. I suppose if it was completely impossible to come back and play football, to advise you of that.
“Look, to date, nobody has said ‘no’ and I hope that continues, and if they do it will be something for me to prove them wrong.”