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The jockey who was given a second chance at life | Declan Murphy on OTB Gold

Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy

03:03 20 Dec 2019

Not many people can say they have read their obituary. Declan Murphy can. 

Declan was a promising young jockey who was severely injured while riding Arcot, the favourite at Haydock Park in 1994, and suffered 12 fractures in his skull and two blood clots in his brain. 

After hours of intense surgery, Declan managed to survive the horrific incident. It was believed by the doctors treating him that he would have long-term brain damage, but Declan woke up in a very different situation. 

Declan woke up with severe amnesia and had forgotten large chunks of his life. He told Off The Ball that he was essentially 12 years old again. 

“Well, fortunately, I have no recollection of what happened to me,” Declan told Off The Ball back in 2017.

Declan faced an incredibly strenuous challenge in recovering from the injuries he sustained.

“When I came out of my coma, only then, did I really understand the enormity of the situation that faced me,” the former jockey said.

“There were many times I became so aware of how thin the line is between sanity and insanity,” Declan said.

Mental strength

Declan’s strong mentality was key in this recovery process.

“When I was in the throws of going through [my recovery], I saw nothing as impossible,” he continued. 

“When you are in your deepest, darkest, stage of coping with adversity, the moment that you have a need to subcontract the solution to the problem that you have got, you have already rendered yourself useless,” Declan said.

When asked about the process of writing his book ‘Centaur’, Declan claimed that it was far harder than the recovery from the injury, or anything else he had ever faced in his life: “It’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life”. 

“[My co-author] took me into some very dark places, places that I had pretended had never happened,” Declan explained.

“When I got to the end of this book, it felt liberating”.

The interview with Off The Ball

I sat down with Ger Gilroy to ask him about the interview and Declan’s story. 

“The thing is about jockeys is that they’re very hard: physically tough, mentally tough. He clearly had this hardness still and needed this hardness to recover. He had a completely different life after [the accident]. That’s the bit that is most striking, his personality changed,” Ger said of Declan’s story.

“For me, the take away from this is that the injury is so severe that he is a completely different person, and he knows that.” He continued.

“The difficulty for him was to go back to this moment of trauma, and piece together this moment of trauma, and remember it, and try and piece the life before back with the life afterwards, and not feel guilty, because that other person’s gone,“ Ger explained.

“He didn’t die, he got a second chance at life”. 

On Declan’s incredible recovery, and decision to write this book, Ger said “at the centre of being a jockey is a madness, and you don’t lose that. Maybe that’s more elemental than some of the other things people have about their personalities.

You get brain damage, but the thing that defines you as a sportsperson is that that wasn’t damaged or changed. It sounds like he’s made a success of his life ever since. It’s a life less ordinary,” he continued.

Declan did manage to return to jockeying for one more race before retiring. This incredible achievement may only be surpassed by his ability to document the entire story in the fantastic book ‘Centaur’.

Now Declan gets “problems with [his] head sometimes”, which he considers a “small price to pay”, considering that he has been allowed to live again. 

You can check out the full interview below, or on our Gold series, on OTB Sports Radio from 1 pm and 6 pm on weekdays.

Featured image source: The Journal

The jockey who was given a second chance at life | Declan Murphy on OTB Gold

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