Tuesday 20 February 2018

Ronnie Whelan: Seamus Coleman's injury reminded me of Jim Beglin screaming in agony in 1987

Read Ronnie Whelan every week in The Herald

Seamus Coleman (pictured) and Jim Beglin (inset).
Seamus Coleman (pictured) and Jim Beglin (inset).
Ronnie Whelan

Ronnie Whelan

Something happens on a football pitch when a bad injury happens. I felt it when Seamus Coleman went down just the same as I felt it when Jim Beglin screamed in agony in Goodison Park back in 1987.

Coleman was silent in his pain but I think everyone knew straight away.

It’s an awful sensation and you don’t ever forget something like that.

Nobody will ever know what Gary Stevens was thinking when he went through Jim but it was a bad one and I had to turn away.

It was the same at the Aviva and we’re very lucky there wasn’t two broken legs. Gareth Bale’s lunge at John O’Shea was just as bad as Neil Taylor’s terrible tackle.

Jim Beglin had a long lay-off and got himself back on a training pitch but he was never the same and says as much himself.

He moved on to Leeds in 1989 and enjoyed their promotion run but it was a knee problem triggered by the leg break which eventually forced him to quit.

A fit footballer has a finely tuned body and when one part of it suffers a catastrophic break, everything is put out of alignment.

Because the effort is to get the player back as quickly as possible, huge pressure is put on all the muscle ligaments and tendons which hold everything together.

That’s why hamstring strains often come after groin operations or back pain after both. The body has to find a new shape to accommodate first the process of recovery and when that’s over, the return to match fitness.

I’m sure they are much further advanced now in dealing with these very bad injuries and all our fingers are crossed that the initial reports of a successful operation will continue as his recovery continues.

But it really is a body blow that something so terrible should happen to Coleman, of all people.

Coleman’s commitment means that he is vulnerable to something like that happening and there is nobody who has more invested in this Ireland team than he has.

It might seem like a bit of hindsight at work and perhaps I played in a different era when tackles like Neil Taylor’s were much more commonplace, but if he had been a bit cuter, the Welshman might have been the one on the ground clutching his leg.

No criticism in this for Coleman. He had his eye on the prize because at that point, Ireland had figured Wales out and were beginning to press so I can understand why he was so keen to dive on.

In my day, looking after yourself was necessary simply because those kind of tackles could happen in any game and you learned how to do it on the training ground as part of your education.

Coleman now has a long, bleak road ahead of him and I don’t say that lightly.

I had a six-month problem with my pelvis and I have to say, there was more than one moment when I looked in the mirror and wondered what someone with as young family could do back in Dublin in the ’80s without any qualifications.

It was that hard for me and while at least finances are not an issue, there will be times in the coming months when Seamus will have to overcome these thoughts.

It will be cruel too. Another lad will step into his position for club and country and the world will keep turning even though his has stopped.

The nature of footballers is that they will sympathise with him and stop to have a chat while he’s on his way to the gym for some upper body work.

But they will eventually have to go training and he will know that. Injury builds a wall between you and football and nobody will willingly climb over it to be with you.

Martin O’Neill will have to move on too and think about finishing this campaign without his best player and Ireland’s captain.

I’m not convinced by Cyrus Christie who is young and untried and it may be that David Meyler’s usefulness as a utility man will be the crutch O’Neill chooses to lean on in Coleman’s absence.

To be honest, I’m only really focusing back on the bigger picture now after events at the Aviva and while Ireland dropped two home points against Wales, the Group D picture is still very healthy.

A draw in Cardiff cancels out the result and at full strength, I see no reason why Ireland couldn’t win there.

O’Neill threw a blanket over Wales for this one and while Ireland didn’t play well, they didn’t lose and the show moves onto Austria in June.

Beat them and we can start thinking seriously about Russia next year.

Online Editors

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