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The season-ending injury which 'could have been a lot worse'

David Meyler will miss Ireland’s crucial World Cup 2018 qualifier against Austria in June.

David Meyler in possession for Ireland during last month's goalless draw with Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
David Meyler in possession for Ireland during last month's goalless draw with Wales at the Aviva Stadium.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

HAVING BEEN IN that situation before, David Meyler feared the worst when he went down injured as Hull City trained a couple of days before their Premier League visit to Stoke earlier this month.

In 2010, Meyler was ruled out for six months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing for Sunderland against Manchester United. He lost another three months of his career by damaging the medial ligament in the same knee shortly after making his comeback.

It was the left knee that caused him problems a fortnight ago, but again the cruciate was the concern. With Hull battling relegation and an important World Cup qualifier on the horizon for Ireland, it wasn’t the ideal time to be carried off the training ground for a scan.

“I was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and he’s caught my standing leg. It was a bit of a freak accident but these things do happen,” Meyler explains.

“I knew something wasn’t right. I was just hoping that it wasn’t the ACL. The physios were on the pitch within 10 seconds. I couldn’t even look down. I was thinking it was gone.

“But thankfully I got it confirmed later that the ACL was fully intact, so I was very relieved. It’s a medial ligament injury. I was lucky in that sense. It could have been a lot worse.”

Meyler was operated on by renowned surgeon Andy Williams in London last week. With his knee in a brace and crutches required to keep him mobile, he won’t play again this season for Hull, who are two points outside the relegation zone with four games remaining.

Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League - Old Trafford Meyler challenges Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Source: Martin Rickett

The 27-year-old midfielder will also definitely miss Ireland’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Austria at the Aviva Stadium on 11 June. Given how well he performed against the same opposition during the win in Vienna in November, being ruled out of the visit of the Austrians to Dublin is a significant blow for the Corkman.

“When the injury happened we had six Premier League games left, which I really wanted to play a part in. With Ireland, I played in the last two games — two very important games — against Austria and Wales. I felt I contributed well and the manager was happy,” Meyler says.

“Getting the win away to Austria was huge and I’d obviously love to play in the home game as well. I’m disappointed to be missing it but I think we’ve got good depth in the squad to keep us on track for qualifying for Russia.”

Meyler’s injury also robs Ireland manager Martin O’Neill of another option at right-back. With Seamus Coleman a long-term absentee after suffering a broken leg against Wales last month, O’Neill may have considered Meyler as an alternative — just as he did for the 1-1 draw away to Germany during the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Meyler: “The manager has asked me to do a job at right-back before, so in the back of his mind he might have known that he had me as an option. I’d give my left arm to play for Ireland. If he wanted me to play at right-back, in goal, up front or wherever, I’d go out and give him 100%.”

Meyler remained in regular contact with Coleman to offer his support during a challenging time for his team-mate. It wasn’t long before the Ireland captain could return the favour.

Republic of Ireland v Wales - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Aviva Stadium Meyler looks on in the aftermath of Neil Taylor's horror challenge on Seamus Coleman. Source: Niall Carson

“I’ve spoken to him a few times over text. Seamus, being the type of person that he is, was on to me when I was having surgery and he was all positive. He’s in good spirits but I was devastated for him,” Meyler explains.

“I’ve had major setbacks before and I’ve come back from them. This is his first one but the type of lad he is, the type of character he is, if there’s one man in football I wouldn’t worry about, it’s Seamus.

“People ask will he be the same player when he comes back, but I think he’ll be even better. He’ll be a big loss to the Irish team, though, because he’s arguably the best right-back we’ve ever produced. I’d have him right up there with Denis Irwin.”

Recalling the tackle from Wales defender Neil Taylor that ended Coleman’s involvement Ireland’s qualifying campaign, Meyler says: “I was in shock. Seamus is one of my close friends in camp — myself, Seamus, and the two James’ [McCarthy and McClean] would be very pally.

“We were just devastated for him. Seamus is almost like our superhero in a way; the way he lives his life and the type of pro he is. Anyone who knows Seamus Coleman won’t doubt that he’ll be back stronger from this.”

As for his own absence, Meyler knows that watching on from the sidelines during an important spell for both club and country won’t be easy.

Austria v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Ernst-Happel-Stadion Ireland manager Martin O'Neill congratulates Meyler after Ireland's victory over Austria in November. Source: John Walton

“It’s hard. Of course it is,” he says. “You’re watching the games and you’re kicking every ball. But we’re professionals and dealing with setbacks like this is part of the game. You have to be able to handle those challenges and come back better. That’s what I intend to do.”

Meyler’s aim is to return for Hull City’s opening game of next season. In the meantime, he can only hope that his next competitive outing will be in the Premier League instead of the Championship.

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Paul Dollery

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