The smile is back on Roy O’Donovan’s face with the Jets striker saying he’s five weeks ahead of schedule in his return from injury at the Hyundai A-League’s entertainers Newcastle Jets.
O’Donovan, 32, who had scored seven goals in seven games for the Jets in a blistering start to the season, suffered a grade one tear to his adductor in early December and was initially ruled out for an estimated three months.
It was a hammer blow for a club still reeling from star Venezuelan import Ronald Vargas' broken ankle earlier in the season.
But speaking to www.a-league.com.au on Tuesday, the Irish goal machine said he was ahead of schedule for his return with a little help from a medic who worked with A-League marquee Alessandro Del Piero during the Italian great's stint in Australia in 2012-14.
“I went to see a guy called Morris Luna, who was Alessandro Del Piero’s medico for deep tissue and chiropractor work when he was in Australia," O'Donovan explained.
“I spent a week down in Melbourne with him to get my body right. And that’s really helped me to get ahead of schedule. I’m probably five weeks ahead of schedule.
“Luckily, here at the Jets we also have Dr. Neil Halpin who is the best groin specialist in the country. He felt it didn’t need an operation so we reattached it high up on the bone from where it came off the tendon.
“And Justin and Chris [Jets medical staff] have done a lot of work with me. I feel better now than I did before we played Perth [in December].”
The Irishman looked good at training on Tuesday at Ray Watt Oval in Newcastle, stretching, sprinting and kicking the ball (though he still is training away from the main group).
He hopes to be back training with the squad next week. It means, he could be back on the park potentially in February, and well ahead of the marquee clash with league-leaders Sydney FC on March 3.
“I feel fantastic, I don’t think I’m far away. I’ve had no set-backs and looking forward to getting back to training with the boys,” he said.
“It’s taken about 10 games out of my season, but the way I look at it, I’ve got to make the last 9-10 games of the season the best yet this season.
“Every minute I step on the pitch this season, I’m going to cherish.
“I hope I can peak at the right time of the season because we’re pretty much going to be a finals team now.”
Incredibly, he revealed the groin injury was lingering from the start of the season, with the player and club managing his groin during the time he was banging-in goals for fun.
“I’d been struggling with it [the groin] since game one. I never really had a groin problem like that. And I didn’t train a lot in the first seven games.
"I just kind of played on match day. And it got progressively worse. We tried injections and medications and when I came back against Perth it just wasn’t right.
"The best thing was that it snapped completely and it took away all my pain.”
Jets coach Ernie Merrick has a huge selection headache looming when O'Donovan and all his squad are ready for selection.
Vargas could be back later this season while new signing Riley McGree is due to link up with the Jets after playing for Australia U23s at the AFC Championships (where Jets Nick Cowburn and Joey Champness have also played).
And with the arrival of Pato Rodriguez, the club is building impressive depth for their charge into the Finals Series.
“It’s fun. We’re winning games. It’s a happy place to be right now,” O'Donovan added.