Megan Connolly speaking to the media yesterday. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Megan Connolly

'I had two fractured ribs and a grade three laceration of the kidney. Adrenaline took over'

Megan Connolly is back with World Cup-bound Ireland after a serious injury setback.

AS THE DUST settled on the Republic of Ireland women’s national football team securing their first-ever World Cup play-off in September, one of their key players from the night before spent a testing day in hospital.

News filtered through that Megan Connolly had sustained a rib injury, but the full extent of the frightening injury was not laid bare until the days that followed.

The Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder revealed ‘fractured ribs and bruised kidney’ in a tweet as she thanked the FAI and the Mater Hospital for their care after the Finland win at Tallaght Stadium.

Amazingly, Connolly played the full game after suffering the worrying blow early on.

The definition of giving everything to the green jersey.

A little over five months on, the Cork native is back in her first Ireland camp since the setback and should make her return in an international friendly against China PR this afternoon [KO 1pm Irish time, live on RTÉ News Channel].

“I don’t know how I played on but the adrenaline was crazy,” Connolly told the Irish media in Marbella yesterday. “I felt it when it happened but adrenaline took over.

“I felt it at half time and was worried it would affect me but I didn’t feel it once in the second half. It was grand during the celebrations when I was dancing around.

“Once the adrenaline wore off, the pain began to come. We got it checked out the next day. I had two fractured ribs and a grade three laceration of the kidney. It was one centimetre.

“I was in the hospital for three days, got home and spent two weeks in bed. I got back to my club and it was a waiting game, resting for four weeks and scan after six. From week seven, I was able to build up and I got back in the 10th week. I just accepted it because it was an injury that I couldn’t control. It was worth it because of the win.”

The picture of her beaming from ear-to-ear with a recovery McDonalds in her hospital bed said it all:

Shane Duffy’s freak injury 13 years ago had the hospital and FAI medical team on high alert, Connolly explains. Duffy had undergo emergency surgery after sustaining a laceration to his liver during an Ireland training camp back in 2010, losing 3.6 litres of blood in the moments after the clash with his life under threat.

“I think to be fair they were very cautious with me, just because of that. I couldn’t speak anymore highly of them, they took really good care of me, as well as Siobhan [Forman], my doctor, how she handled it the next day, making sure I got everything I needed, was great.

“I was passing a bit of blood for four or five days after, just because of the nature of it. I think most of the pain went away two or three weeks in and then it was just a case of trying to get back on the pitch, really.”

That arrived in due course, but 25-year-old Connolly forced to watch her Irish team-mates make history and qualify for their first-ever World Cup in the Hampden Park play-off win over Scotland from her family home on Leeside.

A case of mixed emotions and overriding feelings.

“It was tough. I was home because it was the six-week mark and I had a scan the next day. Never again with my family! My Dad was the commentator. It was amazing to share it with them.

“I wasn’t able to really experience it live like, ‘Oh my God, we have just qualified for a World Cup, But at home, there were a few emotions at the time. Obviously for my parents, they wouldn’t want anything more than that for me in my career, and my brother [Luke, Cork footballer] was there too.

“Obviously, I messaged them all [team-mates], congratulating them. Throughout that whole campaign, there was so many different girls involved in it and I think it was great for everyone that we got over the line. It was not just me who wasn’t involved [in the play-off], but there was a lot of emotion.”

The target now is a seat on the plane to Australia.

Connolly won’t want to miss out again.

megan-connolly Connolly has starred for Ireland in recent years. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The first camp of 2023 and building up to this maiden major tournament has the fire burning in her belly, the former Florida State University star hell-bent on making her mark once more — whether that be in her usual midfield role, or deputising at centre-half as she did that fateful night against Finland.

“It does get you dreaming about that first game, dreaming about being on that plane, and I think for everyone, it gives them that incentive to really just get your head down for the next four or five months and really do your best. At the end of the day, it’s Vera’s choice who she brings. Everyone is just trying to do their best, and dreaming about that first game in Australia.”

Including new recruits Aoife Mannion, Marissa Sheva and Deborah-Anne De La Harpe.

The onslaught of interest from non-Irish born players doesn’t faze Connolly, competition understandably heightening and morale reportedly high as preparations ramp up.

“I mean obviously they have a right to be in here. If they’re Irish, they have a right to come in and do their best and show Vera what they have. And for us, it’s important we just keep trying to build a team — whoever’s in, whoever’s not in, we just want to build that team on and off the pitch — work on things off the pitch, work on things on the pitch, and make it easy for people who come in and out, that it’s the same thing when they’re here.

“I do think this team is very welcoming to whoever comes in. As I said, they have a right to be here, a right to showcase themselves, and at the end of the day, it’s Vera’s choice who she wants to bring on the plane. Everyone is relishing the competition, and just trying to do their best.”

As Connolly does each and every time she wears the green jersey.


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