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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 18 December, 2014

Attacked in New York, Gaelic football has helped Alisha Jordan rebuild her life

And she plays in a an All-Ireland semi-final this weekend.

 

THE PHYSICAL AND psychological scars still remain but Alisha Jordan’s spirit remains unbroken.

It’s over two years since the 22-year-old Meath native was attacked by a lone assailant on a New York City street.

Jordan was walking home with another friend in the early hours of July 14, 2012, when she was set upon with a brick.

The consequences were horrific as Jordan suffered multiple injuries including a broken nose and a cut that required 43 stitches across the front of her forehead between her eyes.

The brick was used with such ferocity that it smashed into pieces and Jordan was also left with two broken cheekbones, a broken nose and fractures to both orbital bones. A damaged nerve also meant that Jordan lost her sight for two weeks and almost all of her teeth were broken.

The cycle of reconstruction began as Jordan was hospitalised for an initial three-week spell, before two separate bouts of surgery required another six weeks in hospital. During that time, she received counselling to help deal with the massive emotional and psychological fallout.

Jordan was told that she would never play football again but a year later, the Skryne girl captained the Cavan team to victory in the New York Ladies football championship.

Reconstructive surgery had seen 10 plates inserted in her forehead and nose and her return to football was allowed on the proviso that she wore a protective mask. Remarkably, she would score the winning point in the New York decider but she was back home three months ago when her father died suddenly of heart failure.

Life presented Jordan with fresh adversity but she’s dealing with her latest setback head on.

She’ll get by with a little help from her friends and family, many of whom will watch her play in Ashbourne on Sunday when the New York team play Derry in the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies junior football championship semi-final.

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She linked up with her New York teammates yesterday, when they arrived on a flight from the Big Apple before bedding down at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel in the capital. And she’s moving on, slowly, learning to cope and live again after a period when was left terrified to even walk outside.

Jordan said: “I definitely don’t look the same as before but I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t really think about it too much.

“I’ve kind of put it behind me and moved on a good bit from it. Of course there are times when it comes back up and certain things remind me of it but I’ve tried to move on and football has definitely helped me with that.”

She added: “I still suffer nightmares about it. There’s not much that you can do about those things. I just have to take the best of what came from it.

“I feel myself in my mind that I’ve definitely tried to look at the best side of it, whatever could be taken from it. Put the badness aside and look at the good – the friends I’ve made and the support I got were unbelievable. Things like that have helped me to push how cruel it was behind me.”

Shortly after the episode, Jordan underwent counselling for a month in New York, on a one-to-one basis.

She admits that the next year “really took it out of me” but she used every single day as an opportunity to return to something approaching normality.

She said: “Even just before me, there was a girl in Boston who was attacked in the same manner. She didn’t come out of it as lucky as I did.

“I always have things like that in my mind. I was brutally attacked and could have been so much worse. Definitely, someone was looking down on me. I got back to normal and back to football within the year.

“I don’t feel I can be crying over it – I turned out fine in retrospect.”

Soon after turning a corner, Jordan received the news that her father John had taken a turn that would ultimately prove fatal.

She said: “I was in America and got the phone call out of the blue that my Dad was very sick. And I didn’t get to see him then – he passed away before I got home.

“I flew out that night but when I got to Dublin airport I got the call that he had died. It was very sudden and not something that I was expecting.”

John passed away within a few hours of being transferred to hospital and his death has left a huge void in Jordan’s life. He always professed a natural love and support for his daughter and she recalled: “I’d be on the phone to him every week about my games over in New York.

“I knew he was proud of me coming out of what happened and getting back into football. It will be bittersweet in the semi-final without him here. I know he’d be very proud.

“Again, it’s just something we’ve had to deal with and I feel we’ve got round the worst part of it now. It’s definitely getting easier.”

Alisha’s mother Eilish will be in Ashbourne on Sunday, as well as her sister Colleen and brothers James, Mark, Johnny and Aaron.

And Alisha smiled: “It will be great to play in front of them again. They haven’t seen me play for a long time.”

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The semi-final against Derry provides New York with the opportunity to progress to a first All-Ireland final since 2011, when they lost after a replay against Wicklow.

And Jordan said: “I can’t wait for it.

“I’ve been training with a team down in Laois, Timahoe ladies, and it’s been really nice to finally meet up with the New York girls again and get into the groove.

“We know we’re going to have a tough time and it’s not going to be an easy game but the girls have trained really hard and everybody is totally committed to it. I went to school with one of the girls, Aoife O’Rourke, who’s from Meath and Jenny Moran is from Meath as well.

“We have 14 or 15 girls from Ireland on the team – the rest are American born players. It’s a great mix and we all get on great.

“There’s a bond from living in New York together and coming to Ireland, especially, with all of their families over, will definitely be a great occasion.”

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The attack made news broadcasts in New York.

And for Jordan, it’s another chance to step forward and leave the past behind.

She said: “Ever since the attack, I’ve put football down as something that’s always been a goal to keep achieving things and keep pushing on.

“They told me I wouldn’t play again but I made it my business to keep training harder than ever. My first time back saw me captain Cavan and we won a championship and the next year I’m in Ireland and in the semi-finals of the All-Ireland.

“It’s definitely nice and life seems to be getting better.”

From Auckland to Texas, there’s no place like Croke Park for Fionn Fitzgerald

Here’s your GAA coverage on TV and radio this weekend

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