Monday 22 October 2018

McCarthy the latest victim in Irish injury curse

National side in sickbay crisis after Everton ace's leg break

West Brom striker Salomon Rondon and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford appeal to the referee to stop the game as James McCarthy lies on the ground with a broken leg Photo: PA
West Brom striker Salomon Rondon and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford appeal to the referee to stop the game as James McCarthy lies on the ground with a broken leg Photo: PA

John Fallon

It was a case of role reversal for Seamus Coleman on Saturday when he watched on in horror as his Everton and Ireland team-mate James McCarthy crumpled in agony under a challenge.

Coleman's own experience of suffering a double-leg break last March was observed by McCarthy from the Lansdowne Road stand after a hamstring twinge in the warm-up for the World Cup qualifier against Wales restricted him to a spectator's role.

An unforeseen set of events in those 10 months means that come the summer the pair will be more conversant in the terminology of tibias and fibulas than the landscape of the 11 cities Russia are using to host the World Cup.

Snapped

Unlike the Neil Taylor tackle which snapped Coleman's shinbone, there could be no blame attached to Salomon Rondon for McCarthy's injury sustained against West Bromwich Albion. The striker was oblivious to his opponent scampering back for a last-ditch tackle to prevent a certain goal and the split-second intervention triggered the collision.

"It's a serious injury," said Toffees boss Sam Allardyce yesterday, confirming the Glaswegian will undergo surgery today.

"The tib and fib are broken and it's because of his really brave efforts to try to stop West Brom's goalscoring opportunity. He's paid a heavy price for his commitment there and we know it will keep him out until next season at some stage. This is a big blow."

Doubtless a blow for his club, but maybe deeper pain for the victim.

While this is by far the most extreme of his injuries, the 27-year-old has been beset by a litany of setbacks since arriving in England from Hamilton Academicals in 2009.

Starting with ankle ligament trouble playing for Wigan Athletic in 2010, the playmaker enjoyed an injury-free period either side of joining Everton in 2013 only for hamstring problems to strike.

Last season McCarthy featured just 15 times, including two qualifiers for Ireland, and endured a full six months without kicking a ball before a cameo at Chelsea in a League Cup game in October.

Those woes seemed, however, to be behind him as Saturday was the fifth game in a row where he had been involved for Everton. Whereas predecessor Ronald Koeman always questioned McCarthy, Allardyce was a fully-fledged fan.

"James was getting sharper and sharper and fitter and fitter with every game," said Big Sam.

"He's missed so many games and we actually thought we'd overcome the little problems. James was playing regularly for us."

Coleman was waiting to console his team-mate by the time the stretcher got to the Goodison Park medical room, but those conversations will expand, filling some of the downtime McCarthy will have lots of in the coming months.

Those around the Irish camp categorise the pair in the same basket as model professionals with an aversion to the trappings commonplace among a portion of their peers.

As Coleman had discovered, the body heals in its own fashion, but the discipline, dedication and patience required to complement the process won't be lacking in McCarthy.

The pair would also have seen for themselves the determination of David Meyler to bounce back from consecutive knee injuries endured shortly after his Premier League breakthrough with Sunderland in 2010.

All three became close during their spell together in the Irish U-21 squad, a bond that remains solid today.

Empathy won't be in short supply within the Irish ranks. Some players are fortunate enough to avoid incurring a significant injury during their career and progressions in medical science ensure fractures don't constitute the sentence they once were.

Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of Irish international Jim Beglin suffering a similar injury which ultimately halted his decorated career by the age of 27.

In the modern era, the more prevalent conditions to shorten the lifespan of a footballer are the likes of head injuries. In the aftermath of the Jeff Astle case, the English Football Association have just commenced a research study into repeated head trauma.

Under medical advice, Kevin Doyle quit the game he loved in September following recurrent headaches.

Elsewhere on the body, particularly beneath the waist, limbs and bones can be repaired and as he reflects following surgery this week McCarthy will have noticed Alan Judge's courageous fightback from a similar injury.

That the winger needed a second operation, extending his lay-off to 20 months, only hardened the resolve of the steely Dubliner.

Another Irish international, Jonny Hayes, will have a rehabilitation time-frame near identical to McCarthy, having been hospitalised in similar circumstances three weeks ago while playing for Celtic.

If 2017 was a year Irish football wanted to forget on foot of the World Cup play-off humbling at the hands of Denmark, 2018 hasn't started well in terms of the tools necessary to engineer an uplift.

McCarthy will not only miss the scheduled friendlies against Turkey and France, but also the entire UEFA Nations League series kicking off in September. Ireland will find out their two opponents in the mini-group at Wednesday's draw in Switzerland.

All going to plan, Robbie Brady should have overcome his knee injury by the start of next season and Jon Walters will be there, if the 34-year-old opts against departing the international circuit,.

Tommie Hoban and Darragh Lenihan, both former Ireland U-21 captains, would also hope to leave their stricken days behind to mount a push for senior squad promotion.

Were this unwelcome trend to continue, we may need them.

Irish Independent

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