Declan Murphy on his remarkable recovery from horrific injuries

The former jockey suffered skull fractures which required life saving surgery in 1994

BY Raf Diallo 21:00 Wednesday 3 May 2017, 21:00 3 May 2017

National Hunt jockey, Declan Murphy, in 1994 upon his return to the racecourse for the first time since an horrific fall at Haydock, meets with Pony Peter at Cheltenham. Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/PA Images

At the start of May 1994, jockey Declan Murphy suffered life-threatening injuries after an incident at Haydock Park.

After falling his horse towards the end of his race, Murphy was knocked unconscious. But as he lay on the turf, the hoof of another competing horse would hit him in the helmet, fracturing his skull in 12 places and leaving him requiring emergency life saving surgery. 

At one point, even an obituary was prepared such were the extent of his injuries and the fears about his situation in the aftermath.

The events of that day and his recovery are detailed in a new book called Centaur and he joined Off The Ball to tell his story.

"It was 23 years ago this morning that I came out of surgery. How fortunate I am to be sitting here with you," he said.

"I have no recollection of what happened to me and that part of my life had to be reconstructed which has been brilliantly reconstructed with my co-author in this book. But it's a process that has been quite remarkable."

Ger Gilroy and Declan Murphy

He added that writing the book is the "hardest thing" he has ever had to do, adding that the process involved going to some "dark places".

Murphy explained: "It's an extraordinary thing when you wake up, when you come out of a coma and you are a child again. You're 12 years old and you're laying on a bed and the people who are looking at you are looking at a 20 year old professional sportsperson who is at the height of his profession. In that moment you have this utter state of confusion and you don't know what you're living through is a nightmare or the dream was the coma that you were in. It's a crazy place to be."

Murphy detailed how his surgeon's skills aided his recovery and the difficulties that he had to be overcome, including how being able to see the sunrise in the mornings gave him hope.

In terms of the day to day now, he explained that he "gets problems with my head sometime" such as headaches "but that it's a very small price to pay". 

He cited another example: "For many years afterwards I still had stitches in my head and when I was having a haircut for instance, the comb would get stuck in the stitch and I would get these strange questions, 'what is that in your head?'"


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