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'You went out and you played, you got injected and then you played again'

Martin O’Neill says modern football has moved on considerably in terms of medical treatment compared with his heyday as a player.

Martin O'Neill speaks at Monday's press conference.
Martin O'Neill speaks at Monday's press conference.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND MANAGER MARTIN O’Neill paid tribute to Kevin Doyle and also gave his thoughts on concussion during Monday’s press conference ahead of the vital World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Wales.

34-year-old striker Doyle announced his retirement on medical advice last week, and O’Neill has long been an admirer of the Wexford native, even revealing that he considered signing him at one point during his career in club management.

“I wouldn’t pretend to know Kevin that well,” he said. “He obviously went off and played in America (with Colarado Rapids). He played some games for us — he was unlucky in one particular game where he started off very, very well here at the Aviva and got an injury pretty quickly (a pre-Euros friendly against Switzerland in March 2016).

By the sounds of things, he’s had a tough couple of years. I’m obviously very disappointed to see him retiring, but in terms of his career, he’s done excellently coming over here.

“There was a period when he was at Wolves when he was much sought-after — I had a genuine interest in him myself at one time as a club manager — and I think he can be pretty pleased with what he has done.

It is a disappointment to retire, but to retire through something like concussion, it’s obviously had its effects on him.”

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

On the topic of concussion, O’Neill acknowledged that it was an issue that football could not afford to treat lightly.

“I don’t know whether it’s overlooked. There are sports where concussion is obviously playing a major part now. Old American footballers are feeling now that their careers have ended prematurely because of concussion.

“It’s obviously a very heavy contact sport and the same with rugby.

“I think in soccer, there’s maybe not less chance, but (it would be rarer that) players would have to retire through concussion. But still, the safety of players is of paramount importance.

I don’t think you can rule it out at all. A clash of heads, it’s obviously a concern when that is part of the game.”

Pressed on whether more could be done to protect footballers such as Doyle, O’Neill suggested that plenty of advancements on player welfare have been made since his era as a footballer.

I think the modern-day medical team would try to look after players in all sports now more so than they did in my day.

“You went out and you played, you got injected (with a painkiller) and then you played again. And you got on with it. Managers wanted you to play and if you had to kill the pain to play games, then so be it.

I didn’t think it was a major concern. I don’t think we thought about it long-term, and whether your career could be shortened for a number of years. I don’t think that was taken into consideration then.

“But I do think now that there’s more medical care and that there’s more responsibility on the safety of players than ever before.”

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Paul Fennessy

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