Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman is due to undergo surgery on Saturday as he faces up to a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The 28-year-old Everton full-back suffered a double fracture of his lower right leg during Friday night’s 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw with Wales at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Coleman was hurt in a challenge by Wales wing-back Neil Taylor, who was sent off as a result, 69 minutes into a stormy affair.
He was treated at length on the pitch and was given oxygen as he was comforted by team-mate Shane Long, and eventually left on a stretcher.
Coleman was taken straight to St Vincent’s University Hospital in the city, where he was due to have screws inserted to help repair the damage on Saturday.
He was visited by manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant on Friday night as graphic pictures of the damage circulated on social media.
The former Sligo Rovers winger was appointed Ireland captain by O’Neill during the Euro 2016 finals in France and has become one of the mainstays of his team.
Friday’s draw left the Republic locked together with Serbia at the top of Group D at the halfway stage of the campaign, but it remains to be seen what part he will be able to play in the rest of it.
Coleman’s plight prompted support from colleagues and fans alike with former Everton team-mate Leon Osman backing him to come back better and stronger for his misfortune.
Osman told the club’s website, www.evertonfc.com: “I’m absolutely gutted for him. I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.
“Knowing him, though, he’ll come back better, fitter and stronger. That’s the type of character he is.
“He was playing for Sligo Rovers in the Irish league when he was 20, so he’s got a real appreciation for the game. He’s a real nice, genuine lad – he doesn’t carry any of the arrogance a lot of footballers have.
“I’ve got all the time in the world for him. He’s one of the genuine nice guys in football. It’s upsetting it’s happened to any player, never mind such a top guy in Seamus.
“Seamus is the type of guy who will be devastated, but he’ll work his socks off to get back as quick as he can.
“Watching the game, the moment it happened, Evertonians were devastated to lose such an influential character – he’s a future captain of Everton Football Club. It’s a big loss and everyone felt it.
“Everyone loves Seamus and will be desperate to get him back as soon as he possibly can.”
There were good luck messages on Twitter too, with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney posting: “Hope Seamus Coleman gets better soon. Horrible tackle.”
Former Everton midfielder Peter Reid wrote: “Seamus Coleman, keep your head up lad, you’ll be back stronger.”
Former Ireland stars Shay Given and Paul McGrath too passed on their best wishes.
Given posted: “Wishing @Everton Seamus Coleman a speedy and full recovery. Stay positive pal, and you will be back to your best again.”
McGrath wrote: “Thoughts and best wishes are with Seamus Coleman tonight. The result of the game is put into perspective when something like this happens.”
While Coleman’s injury represents a massive blow to his country, it is equally devastating to his club, who said on Twitter: “The support of all Evertonians is with Seamus after he was stretchered off at the Aviva during tonight’s game against @FAWales.”
Ireland boss O’Neill and Everton counterpart Ronald Koeman have enjoyed an uneasy relationship in recent months with the Dutchman unhappy with the Northern Irishman’s use of midfielder James McCarthy.
McCarthy was due to start the game against Wales after recovering from a hamstring injury, but was withdrawn after over-stretching during the warm-up.
No blame can be attached to the Republic for Coleman’s devastating blow, but the incident is unlikely to improve matters between the two parties.