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Promotion leaves Delaney on a high

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GETTING STUCK IN: AIden McGeady and Damien Delaney challenge for the ball during squad training in Malahide

THE narrative of Damien Delaney's long and, at times, perilous struggle to carve a place for himself in English football never offered him a great deal of hope that Wembley would ever figure as a training ground.

For a man who could have lost his career and part of his leg three years ago after a scary injury involving a blood clot hiding in a compartment in his calf muscle, life could hardly be better.

He's a man who obviously smells the coffee and after stealing the show in the English Championship promotion play-off final at Wembley, he's still looking in the mirror every morning to find a grin botoxed across his face.

 

SURREAL

Delaney, like Ireland team-mate James McCarthy, has spent an unusual amount of time at Wembley in the last few weeks and the surreal nature of his eve-of-game stroll across the sacred sward with hardly a soul to be seen in the stands still resonates.

"It was sort of surreal, to see it empty. It was good, though. It was a bit strange being back the very next day for training, I did a little cool-down," said Delaney, eyes wide as he thinks back on his Wembley week, book-ended with the possibility of a run against Georgia at the Aviva tomorrow.

There's no frills here. Delaney took the tube home from Crystal Palace's big knees-up after they beat Watford, aware that he had to be in Luton the following day to hook up with the Ireland squad.

"I went back to the hotel in central London after the game where there was a party and about 11:30 I got a tube home lads," he laughs.

"I did, yeah! And I was a right sight going through London with my suitcase and my bag of boots.

"It was a Bank Holiday so it wasn't that busy on the tube. So, yeah, I just went home and watched the NBA basketball game that was on – Spurs played the Grizzlies.

"Up the next day and went for breakfast with my family who were all over for the game."

It has been an emotional time for Delaney, who was captured in a full flood of tears after the win. "I was just kind of overwhelmed.

"I've had a lot of tough times, well tough times in football.

"I just kind of persevered with it and when the final whistle went I couldn't really believe it to be honest with you and then when I saw the lads lifting the trophy I was thinking 'I've actually done it now'. It was good, it was a good feeling, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I did all of them to be honest, but it was a good day."

It is unusual to hear such openness from footballers these days. Many in the Ireland squad are happy to speak but some who should know better have become veritable wallflowers. Shane Long springs to mind.

But Delaney has known enough hardship to realise that precious behaviour is just wasted energy.

He delivers a chilling description of the blood clot injury which could have been catastrophic in all sorts of ways and understands how lucky he was.

"There was a strong possibility they would have to remove part of my thigh muscle, that was what I was told.

"That was a real possibility. Since then I've had letters off people who have had a similar injury and it wasn't diagnosed quickly enough.

"It's called compartment syndrome but the physios at Ipswich were brilliant for me. They called it within 20 minutes and had it operated on within the hour which was lucky because, if they didn't and they hesitated, or sent me home with an ice-pack, which is what happened to some of the people who wrote to me, the blood supply gets cut off to the muscle and then it dies basically."

 

THINK

No surprise then that a wave of such thoughts and many others layered deep through his 12-year career washed over him when promotion had been achieved.

"I think about it a lot to be honest with you.

"At home in my mum's house in Ireland I have the two promotion medals from League One to League Two and from League Two to the Championship and I was just missing the third one.

"And over the years I always told my mum (Geraldine) I'd get her the third one so she could hang that on the wall as well.

"And as soon as I got it on Monday I gave it to her straight away after the game.

"I said: 'There you go now'. So that's one promise fulfilled anyway."


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