Martin O’Neill has backed Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman to return to his “brilliant” best after undergoing surgery to repair his double leg fracture.
The Football Association of Ireland has confirmed that the 28-year-old Everton full-back had an operation in Dublin on Saturday morning after fracturing both the tibia and fibula of his right leg during Friday night’s 0-0 World cup qualifier draw with Wales.
A statement said: “Captain Seamus Coleman, who went off injured during the game, underwent surgery on Saturday morning after fracturing his right tibia and fibula, under the care of the FAI’s orthopaedic surgeon, Professor John O’Byrne and Mr Gary O’Toole, consultant orthopaedic surgeon.”
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 to be taken straight to the city’s St Vincent’s University Hospital.
He was visited by manager Martin O’Neill and his assistant on Friday night as graphic pictures of the damage circulated on social media.
O’Neill said: “Seamus suffered a serious leg injury and has undergone surgery. He has had an exceptional season with both club and country, and he will be a big loss.
“But Seamus is so mentally strong that when he has fully recovered he will be as brilliant as before.”
FAI chief executive John Delaney also sent his best wishes to a player who has become a mainstay in the Republic team.
He said: “Seamus has been a terrific captain for his country and on behalf of the FAI Board and everyone in the association, I want to send Seamus our very best wishes.
“We look forward to welcoming Seamus back to the Ireland team following his recovery.”
Coleman faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines – the early speculation has suggested up to six months – and that will come as a massive blow too to club manager Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman told Everton’s official website, www.evertonfc.com, on Saturday morning: “I haven’t been able to speak to Seamus as yet and I hope to do so this afternoon, but he will be aware that the thoughts of his team-mates, the coaching staff, everyone at the club and all Evertonians are with him at this time.
“No-one ever wishes to see something like this happen to any player, much less one of our own.
“The medical staff here at Everton are in contact with the medical staff of the Republic of Ireland and we will continue to liaise closely.
“Seamus will face a lengthy recovery period and we will support him throughout this.
“He is a really strong character and he has a great family around him and we, his extended family at Everton, will be here for him to help him get through this over the coming days, weeks and months.”
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, if any, Coleman will be able to play in what remains of it.
His plight prompted support from colleagues and opponents alike with Wales midfielder Joe Ledley hitting out after social media users accused him of laughing as the defender was treated by medical staff.
He tweeted: “I didn’t want to acknowledge the nonsense on here, but those who have wrongly interpreted and commented on what my thoughts were at that moment in time need their heads testing.
“My thoughts are with Seamus Coleman and I wish him a speedy road to recovery.”
Team-mate Chris Gunter added: “Very best wishes to Seamus Coleman. A quick recovery and no doubts I’m sure he will be back better than before.”
There were good luck messages too from Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and former Ireland team-mate Shay Given among others.
Rooney tweeted: “Hope Seamus Coleman gets better soon. Horrible tackle”, while Given posted: “Wishing @Everton Seamus Coleman a speedy and full recovery. Stay positive pal, and you will be back to your best again.”
The Republic face Iceland in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening, and they will do so without central defender John O’Shea, who had to have stitches in a leg wound caused by a challenge from Gareth Bale seconds before Coleman was injured.
James McCarthy, who was withdrawn from the starting line-up after the warm-up, Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters will also return to their clubs.