‘Everybody loves Seamus and it’s hard to see him go like that’
There was a downbeat mood among the Ireland squad as they left the ground
Gareth Bale of Wales shoots from a free kick during the 2018 World Cup Qualifier between Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
The Ireland players walked through the mixed zone, heads heavy, shoulders down. They carried themselves like men who’d left a result behind them but they only had to start talking to know it wasn’t the scoreline that was on their minds. A point gained, a point dropped, it felt neither here nor there. All they had a mind for was Seamus Coleman.
“We’re all devastated for Seamus, it’s heartbreaking,” said David Meyler. “It’s obviously a bad injury and we are all thinking about him and his family and we just wish him a speedy recovery.”
The tackle from Wales full-back Neil Taylor looks set to leave Coleman on the sidelines for at least the rest of the season and well into the next one. Shane Long was the first one the scene and for those in the stadium too far away to judge the tackle, the sight of the Ireland centre-forward cradling his captain’s head and talking to him on the ground was the most chilling clue that something was seriously wrong.
“I was just trying to comfort him,” Long said. “He was obviously in a lot of pain. It was a bad challenge and a bad injury. I was just trying to settle him and relax him. It’s not nice to see that happen to anybody. But everybody loves Seamus and it’s just hard to see him go down like that. I’m sure he’ll come back stronger.”
Cyrus Christie came on for Coleman and played pretty well, considering how rushed his introduction was. As long as he stays injury-free himself, he will surely deputise for the rest of the campaign. When he stopped to talk, he was almost funereal in his delivery.
“We’re just in shock really. Seamus is our captain, he’s a great leader. He’s a massive player for us and it’s a tough one to take. When these type of things happen, you want to do it for Seamus. He’s our captain, a great leader and first and foremost he’s a great man. A great person. For an injury like that to happen to him, it’s so unfortunate and everyone here is gutted for him.”
Christie was actually slow to get himself over to the Ireland dug-out for the substitution and you could see Martin O’Neill frantically hurrying him into the fray. The problem wasn’t that he was unprepared, it was more that the sight of Coleman’s injury left him momentarily stuck to the ground.
“That’s not the way you want to come on,” Christie said. “When they were telling me to warm up, I didn’t even move because I was in shock when I saw his leg. It wasn’t nice, I’m sorry. It’s tough. You don’t want to come on in a game like that when that’s just happened. It’s one of those – I think everyone in the stadium was in shock.
“[Martin] said, ‘You know what you have to do’. And that was it really. I thought I did okay, just my end product could have been better at the end. I’m disappointed with that. I got a few decent crosses in before that and I thought I came on and did well enough. It wasn’t meant to be. We got the point on the board and now we look forward to Austria.”
For all that the Irish players were in a state over Coleman, they remained reasonably understanding towards Taylor. And, for that matter, Gareth Bale, who could easily have seen the line himself for tackles on John O’Shea and James McClean. Long didn’t stint on calling out the tackles but at the same time allowed that there was probably an absence of malice, all told.
“I think [Taylor] has got it done to him before so I think he went in a bit worried into the tackle. He caught him high. He was in tears afterwards. He knows the pain Seamus is in, he’s been there before. It was a horrible challenge, there’s no defending it. But I don’t think he meant to do it. I thought it was innocent enough.
“[Bale] caught John high, yeah. I think that was honest as well. I think he was trying to get the ball, trying to score a goal. But he did catch him high and even afterwards, the kick in the chest on James McClean I think.
“Little things like that, if they go your way, can change the game. But I don’t think there was any malice in it. I thought the ref did alright tonight. He tried to let the play go and tried to keep it fair for both sides. We’re disappointed not to get the win, especially when they were down to 10 men. But they’re a good side so it’s not a bad result.”