'I start crying and I can't stop. I know this is the end of my World Cup'
Published 25/09/2016 | 17:00
As I make my way down the tunnel, Mick gives me this little nod and a wink. It's his way of telling me it's going to be all right. My knee will be fine. The match will be fine. The World Cup will be grand.
Cameroon are decent. They have to be with a young Samuel Eto'o in their side. They're strong in the middle and they have pace. They're going to put us on the front foot early on. They're going to test us in all departments. They go a goal up through M'Boma just before the break, by which time I've been booked. I put my hand on this guy's shoulder and the Japanese referee goes straight for the yellow card. It's soft. But it's not the only thing worrying me. My knee is in bits. It's swollen again and it's killing me. I can't wait for half-time.
We get back into the dressing room and Mick McCarthy is straight over.
"How are you?"he asks, but he knows the truth as he looks at my leg. All I can do is yell at Mick Byrne to get me some ice. I'm telling Mick McCarthy it'll be okay and I'm screaming at Mick Byrne for ice and painkillers. Mick McCarthy just turns around as he walks back to the centre of the room, looks at me and shakes his head. I'll never forget it. He knows I'm fucked. He knows my World Cup is over. He knows I should never have started the game in the first place. I know what he's going to say before he even says it.
"I'm taking you off, Steve Finnan's in at right-back." Stevie is warming up as I'm protesting. I know my World Cup's as good as over, and I'm fuming.
The others are on their way back out as I hobble into the shower. When the door closes behind them, I break down. I start crying and I can't stop. I know this is the end of my World Cup, maybe even the end of my time with Ireland.
Blood, Sweat & McAteer (copyright © Jason McAteer 2016), published by Hachette Books Ireland, is available in bookshops from Monday 26 September. Jason McAteer will be signing books at Eason, O’Connell Street, Dublin, on Saturday 1 October at noon.
Sunday Indo Sport