Mixed news for Horgan as McCann is ruled out for year
GARY O'Neill's League Player of the Month award for March, confirmed on Tuesday, has been tempered by the news that his Drogheda United teammate Austin McCann faces months on the sidelines.
McCann broke his leg in a tackle with Sligo Rovers' Jeff Henderson during Monday night's 1-1 draw at The Showgrounds and manager Robbie Horgan said he doesn't expect to be able to call on the 29-year-old Drogheda native again this season.
Speaking on Tuesday morning, Horgan told the Drogheda Independent: 'I am waiting for full confirmation, but I spoke to the physio who stayed over in Sligo with Austin overnight and it looks like a double leg break, the tibia and fibula, and he will have surgery today.
'The season is over for Austin and that's the highs and lows of football. He has been great for us - we brought him on to do a specific job for us and he was doing it very well.
'I thought it was a bad challenge, but I didn't think it was a leg breaker because the guy challenged him with his body rather than the feet. I'm not sure whether he should have been sent off.
'But Austin knew within 15 seconds that his leg was broken and even on the far side there were people who could hear the crack. Our own medical staff and the doctor in Sligo were very good, and we wish Austin well.
'He will still have a big part to play this season because we're like a tight-knit family and he can encourage the other players.'
O'Neill is guaranteed a rapturous reception at this Friday's home game against Bray Wanderers (7.45pm) after it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that he had been named the SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland Player of the Month for March.
The 32-year-old striker has returned to action this season following treatment for testicular cancer and almost single-handedly dragged Drogheda back from the brink with two goals in the 2-2 draw at Bohemians, the equaliser coming in stoppage time.
While O'Neill has been around the league for more than a decade, playing for six different clubs, he had never won this prestigious award before and it took him by surprise.
'It's a massive honour as I had never won it. It's always nice to get personal awards as it shows that your performances are being recognised,' said O'Neill.
O'Neill becomes the 11th different player from Drogheda to win the monthly award and the first since Ollie Cahill in July 2008, but he insisted that he is merely benefiting from being part of a good team.
'I'm accepting the award on behalf of all the players and the staff at Drogheda who have been great. It's been enjoyable so far, but I suppose that's because we got some points on the board early on.
'We won't be getting too carried away with ourselves as the season has just started and we are under no illusions how hard it is going to be to pick up points each week, but we've started well and want to build on that.'
Micheal Schlingermann and Paul Crowley remain out for another week or so, and of course McCann is ruled out, but otherwise Horgan will have a full squad to pick from for the visit of Bray and he has no intentions of giving Declan O'Brien a rest after scoring seven goals from four starts.
'I rested Daire Doyle for the Sligo game,' the manager pointed out, 'and I'd like to rest Gary O'Neill because he's played every game.
'I'm asking Fabio to score goals and put in a huge shift for us, but he's in great shape. Do I want to rest him? Absolutely not! But I have to be cautious at the same time.'
For O'Neill to even be back on the pitch is an achievement in itself as he was forced to miss the run-in to last season due to his cancer treatment, but the Dubliner insists that is making the most of his 'second chance'.
'To a certain degree I'd like to put what happened behind me, mainly because I love the game and want to enjoy it. I'm delighted that Drogheda took me back and gave me that second chance to play again.
'I suppose at times you can take it all for granted – that there will always be another game, another season. But once I was out, I feared that it could be gone for good. Now that I'm back, I don't want to waste a single minute.'