Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Seán Cox and his wife Martina signal to the crowd ahead of the game.
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'I went up to see Seán before the game and it absolutely broke my heart'
Liverpool and Ireland legends paid tribute to the injured fan at the Aviva Stadium last night.

Paul Fennessy reports from the Aviva Stadium

LIVERPOOL AND IRELAND Legends came together in support of Seán Cox at the Aviva Stadium last night.

Goals from John Aldridge and Vladimir Smicer saw the Reds prevail in front of 26,873 spectators, after Keith Andrews had opened the scoring for the hosts.

But the result was of secondary importance to the cause on the night. Cox himself was able to attend the game, in the process leaving a medical setting for the first time since suffering the life-altering brain injuries after being viciously attacked by an opposition supporter outside Anfield prior to last year’s Champions League semi-final between Liverpool and Roma.  

“I’ve been here quite a few times and I’ve played at Lansdowne Road and a lot of stadiums,” Aldridge said afterwards. “The only one that I’m gutted I never played at was Croke Park. So it was nice, even at the age of 60, to don the pitch. To play with both Liverpool and the Republic was brilliant on such an occasion.

“I can’t move as swiftly as I used to and the achilles was screaming the last five minutes, but I can’t complain. Half an hour was more than what I really could have done anyway. I’m just glad I was invited.”

And what about that penalty, which he converted coolly passed Wayne Henderson after a characteristic delayed run-up?

“It was alright. One of my traits — I used to do the shimmy. I should have patented it actually, because a lot of people have followed me over the years. But I’m glad it went into the side of the net where it should have gone. I would have been gutted if I missed it on such a special occasion.”

The former Ireland and Liverpool striker continued: “What Seán’s gone through and the family — it’s all our hearts, and not just Liverpool fans, people have really backed it as well, to go to a game and horrendously have what’s happened. Obviously you do whatever you can to back Seán and his family. And everyone done it today. The Liverpool family came together tonight, nearly 30,000 on a cold Friday. It says a lot.” / YouTube

Jason McAteer, who made 100 appearances for Liverpool between 1995 and 1999, also relished playing at Ireland’s home stadium again.

“I loved it. We get the easy part. The enjoyment. The smiles. Reminiscing. Going back in time and remembering the good old times. That’s very easy for us. But it’s important we don’t lose sight of why we’re here.”

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Indeed, a pre-match visit to Cox and his family helped put the evening in perspective for the 47-year-old former pro.

I went up to see Seán before the game and it absolutely broke my heart to see him the way he is. It just brought home why we’re here. We haven’t seen him since it happened. He’s been wrapped up in cotton wool.

“We’re very conscious about the family. We’ve done a lot of media stuff around the family. So I know what they’re going through.

“But you don’t get a [full] grasp of it until you see the full extent of the damage that’s been done. It’s just horrific. Something that never should have happened. We’ve pulled together. We’re here tonight for a good cause, his rehabilitation.

It’s the fans who are the real heroes, because they’re the ones that turn up and pay the money, make it a success and that’s what they’ve done tonight. I had no doubt that the Irish and Liverpool fans would come together to support this — they’re absolutely one in a million.”

McAteer’s former Liverpool and Ireland team-mate Phil Babb, meanwhile, was similarly humbled by the experience.

“It’s a fantastic pitch and it’s such a massive arena. I’ve done loads of media here but to actually be on the pitch was special. Not only in the red shirt, but to put the green shirt on and play 15 minutes for Mick was great. 

“We probably use the word ‘family’ too much, but it really is a genuine tag associated with Liverpool. When there are tragic circumstances, the club rally together, supporters rally together, not only back in Liverpool, but in Ireland. The fans here have been superb and it’s been such a worthwhile cause, the Seán Cox Rehabilitation Trust has certainly benefited tonight and I can’t thank the fans for turning up enough.”

Video by Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh.

Donations can made to Seán and his family on the Go Fund Me page Support Seán Cox.

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