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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018

'When you're 25 and you've had two serious injuries, you're nearly a forgotten man'

Eoin Wearen hopes his injury troubles are a thing of the past as he prepares to face his former club.

LIMERICK’S POSITIVE START to the SSE Airtricity League season last weekend represented victory for Eoin Wearen on two fronts.

In his debut for the club, not only did the midfielder help the Blues to defy the many pre-season predictions which have tipped them as favourites for relegation from the Premier Division. He also started a competitive game for the first time in 16 months.

inpho_01328558 Limerick FC midfielder Eoin Wearen. Source: INPHO/Ryan Byrne 

With the exception of a 20-minute cameo for Bohemians in their final game of 2017 against Finn Harps last October, Wearen was sidelined for the entirety of last season after rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament [ACL] on the eve of the kick-off.

After emerging from the latest injury setback to stall his career, Wearen savoured last Saturday night’s 1-0 victory over Sligo Rovers. Darren Dennehy headed in the only goal of the game to mark the beginning of Tommy Barrett’s tenure with a valuable three points.

“I think everyone at the club has been on a high this week. It was the perfect start,” says Wearen, who came through 68 minutes unscathed before being replaced by Kilian Cantwell at the Showgrounds, where a crowd of just over 3,000 showed up on the opening weekend of the season.

I played 90 minutes in some pre-season games but it’s not the same as playing in front of a few thousand people. That’s the sort of buzz I’ve missed over the last year and a half. You can’t beat playing for three points in front of a decent crowd so it was a great feeling.”

By now, Eoin Wearen understands that there’s no avoiding the potential for injuries as a professional footballer. Nevertheless, he’d like to think at this stage that the path ahead will be clear. He’s now 25, but there’s a sense when it comes to the St Kevin’s Boys product that his career has yet to get up and running.

Having joined West Ham United at the age of 16, Wearen’s potential to make a first-team breakthrough at Upton Park was recognised in the form of a one-year contract extension in the summer of 2012. But soon afterwards he picked up an injury — a ruptured ACL in his other knee — that spelled the end of his time at the Premier League club.

After a long absence, he returned to action in May 2014 when he signed for Bohemians following his return home to Dublin. A brief stint with Sligo Rovers a year later separated his two spells with the Gypsies, before he moved on to Limerick for 2018.

Wearen had high hopes for last season. With two and a half years of experience in the League of Ireland under his belt, he felt confident he was capable of making a significant impact at Dalymount Park in 2017. However, those plans were dashed before he could put them into action and he spent the year in rehabilitation after another knee operation.

Soccer - FA Youth Cup - Fourth Round - West Ham United v Manchester United - Upton Park Wearen tangling with Manchester United's Paul Pogba during a 2011 FA Youth Cup game. Source: Stephen Pond

“I don’t think I ever felt that I was going to struggle to come back, but it was definitely a test of character to stay motivated and realise why you’re putting in so much effort,” explains Wearen, who experienced first-team football in England at the age of 19 during a loan spell with Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two.

“You’re dedicating yourself to the rehab and it’s all because of nights like last Saturday. That buzz makes it all worth it. It was a challenge and an obstacle. If you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll get the rewards on the other side. I’m hoping for an injury-free season now but at the moment I’m only taking it one training session and one game at a time. I’m not taking anything for granted after last year.

“When you’re 25 and you’ve had two serious injuries, you’re nearly a forgotten man in some ways because you’ve been away that long. But I try not to think about having to prove anything to anybody. I just want to prove to myself that I can come back a better player. I believe I can do that and hopefully my performances will prove it.”

He adds: “Whatever level they’re playing at, the thing most footballers find the hardest when they’re not playing is finding something that gives you that same buzz, whether it’s a player who’s retired or out injured. It could be in the League of Ireland, England or wherever, but that buzz from playing in front of a decent crowd at a good level is what you crave.

That’s enough motivation, certainly for me anyway. I love the game of football. I appreciate every day that I can be involved in the game and although I’ve had some bad luck over the years, I’d like to think I’ve been very lucky as well.”

When Wearen signed for Limerick in January, it was seemingly a club in crisis. A week after manager Neil McDonald departed, owner Pat O’Sullivan announced his intention to put the club up for sale. All of a sudden, however, the outlook seems much more positive on Shannonside.

Tommy Barrett, a 38-year former Limerick player and local lad, was appointed manager and assembled a squad with plenty of Premier Division experience, despite having less than five weeks to prepare for the start of the new season.

A sizeable number of pundits have backed them for the drop to the First Division for 2019, but last weekend’s result in Sligo suggests that Limerick could be capable of flouting those forecasts.

Eoin Wearen Bohs will face one of their former players tonight. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Wearen says: “We’ve seen some of the stuff that’s been written but we’ve completely blocked it out. There’s been no talk about relegation or anything like that. It’s not even a talking point in our changing room. Other people can say what they want to say.

“We fielded a very experienced XI in Sligo last week. Overall it’s a young squad but there’s plenty of experience there, with lads who have won leagues and cups. The younger lads are chomping at the bit to make a name for themselves too. There’s a good balance there. I think we’ll be a good footballing side as well.”

Wearen admits it will be an unusual experience tonight when he makes his home debut for Limerick. He could be forgiven if force of habit tempts him to pass the ball to a red and black shirt, but he’ll be hoping to contribute to another positive result for his new club at the expense of his former employers when Bohemians visit the Market’s Field [6.30pm].

“I spoke to Keith [Long, Bohs manager] at the end of last season,” Wearen says. “He wanted me at the club. I was happy to stay. It just ended up that we couldn’t reach an agreement.

We were back and forth for a few weeks, but when Limerick came up it was a good move for me.

“I didn’t leave Bohs on bad terms at all. There’s a great group of players and coaching staff there and I wish the lads all the best this year. I’ll be hoping they do well — except for this weekend and in the other three games they play against us.”

The former Ireland U19 international adds: “With Bohs beating [Shamrock] Rovers last week, both teams will be on a high. I obviously know that we won’t have an easy night, but I think likewise they know that they’ll be coming up against a team who are high on confidence after last week, so hopefully we can get another three points.”

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Paul Dollery

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