Sean McGoldrick: “The pain of missing the World Cup will only heal slowly”

Instead, he is back in Dublin, rehabilitating a calf injury sustained in Ireland’s last warm-up game against Samoa in Bayonne last Saturday. “I’m broken but not beaten,” he said on Instagram.

The 125th-capped striker joins the most unwanted club in Irish sport.

Current Irish teammates Johnny Sexton and Peter O’Mahony, and former teammates Paul O’Connell and Seán O’Brien are paid members.

So have many of Ireland’s other highly decorated sporting personalities, including Roy Keane, Ruby Walsh, Ciara Mageean and Eoin Liston.

What they all have in common is that they were injured or, in the case of Keane and O’Brien, suspended on the eve of what could be the greatest moment of their sporting careers.

Paul O’Connell never played for Ireland again after suffering a hamstring injury at the 2015 World Cup against France. Healy, 35, may never get another chance to play in a World Cup.

After missing out on the Champions League final in 1999, Roy Keane never got a chance to play again. Sean Flood knows all about her pain.

During his lifetime, Wexford took part in five All-Ireland finals. He was too young to play in the 1968, 1970, 1976 and 1977 finals. The story of him missing Wexford’s final Liam MacCarthy Cup appearance in 1996 still resonates almost three decades later.

“I’ve always said that if I’d ever thrown a pitch, I wouldn’t have gotten this much attention,” Flood says. He worked for the Wexford side for almost a decade when, out of the blue, they went into full swing in the summer of 1996.

Under the inspirational stewardship of Liam Griffin, they won their first Leinster title since 1977. But Flood’s dream was shattered late in a pulsating semi-final against Galway when Kevin Broderick accidentally caught his shin while pulling the ball.

By this time Wexford had used their full quota of three substitutes and Flood experienced the game as a co-driver with the corner striker. “I was tipping over on one leg even though I could barely walk.”

Wexford prevailed but his post-game celebration was cut short when he was taken to hospital for an X-ray. The news was encouraging; The first diagnosis was that he hadn’t broken anything.

In the three weeks leading up to the last flooding across Ireland, a full diagnosis was unsuccessful. There was evidence that he might have suffered nerve damage or that there was a problem with his knee. He tried cortisone shots.

Wexford hurler Seán Flood missed the 1996 All-Ireland Final with a shin sprain.

Ultimately, his sporting world collapsed a few days before the final when he tried to take a fitness test under the watchful eye of Liam Griffin.

“I got an injection beforehand and warmed up on the bike. I managed to walk straight, but couldn’t turn. The pain was killing me even though I tried not to hurt myself.

“I was never really told that I was eliminated from the finals. But that night I made the big mistake and realized I wasn’t going to play.”

It wasn’t until he had a scan done after the finale that Flood realized he’d been living the wrong dream. He never had a chance to get fit against Limerick. The first X-ray failed to show that he had fractured his tibia in a vertical line.

On the day of the final, the hours leading up to the game were very difficult for Flood. Despite his inner turmoil, he made a short speech before the troupe left the Stillorgan Park Hotel for Croke Park.

According to his friend and teammate Tom Dempsey, it has a meaningful impact. “I’m not saying that’s why we won the game, but everyone remembered what Sean said,” Dempsey said.

Flood can’t remember the exact words he used, but it went something like this: “You don’t realize what you have until it’s taken from you.”

He was back in the 1997 season where Wexford beat Kilkenny in the Leinster Final but lost to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semifinals. He retired in January 2002, never having the opportunity to compete in an All-Ireland final again.

Nowadays he judges this experience philosophically. “It’s a big problem if it’s your problem. But it’s not a problem when you look at the other things happening across the country, like the fatalities in Tipperary during the week.”

He is remembered for the support he received from his wife Kathleen, extended family, team-mates, club-mates and the Wexford fans. Larry O’Gorman insisted he take his place in the team photo at Croke Park ahead of the final.

When the team was honored at Croke Park last year ahead of the All-Ireland Final Limerick v Kilkenny (to commemorate the silver anniversary of their win), team captain Liam Dunne insisted Flood walk after him.

“George O’Connor had the opportunity to play in an All-Ireland final because I didn’t play, so as they say, it’s a bad wind that doesn’t blow and doesn’t bring anything good.” Sport is very cruel.

“Looking back now, I can say, ‘Jesus, I was lucky.’ Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say that at the time. There are many bad luck stories in sports.

“For every player who wins something, there’s another poor devil who just missed it, didn’t make it this year or didn’t make it onto the jury. People forget that, and I could have been that person,” Flood said.

Other Irish stars not to be missed

Kerry’s Ger Power and Eoin Liston missed out on the All-Ireland finals in 1979 and 1980 respectively. Power missed out on the 1979 decider with a hamstring injury, while Liston missed out on defeating Roscommon after undergoing surgery for acute appendicitis at Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee the previous Wednesday.

Defenseman Martin Shovlin was sidelined with a neck injury on the eve of Donegal’s first All-Ireland final appearance in 1992, while John Devine’s father, John, died the day before the 2008 All-Ireland final. His son was supposed to be in goal for Tyrone in the final but returned home to be with his family on Saturday night.

Kilkenny’s Henry Shefflin suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in the 2010 All Ireland semi-final against Cork. He made a heroic effort to be fit for the decider against Tipperary by undergoing specialist treatment from world-renowned physiotherapist Ger Hartman. He actually started in the final, but had to give up after just 13 minutes. The Cats’ dream of winning a record five straight titles fell through.

Ciara Mageean suffered a torn calf muscle during her last track training session before the Tokyo Olympics. She could only do a light jog for the seven days leading up to her 1500m race. It was clear from the start of the race that the Portaferry athlete was struggling and she crossed the finish line in tenth place. She buried her face in her hands and knew her Olympic dream was over.

Belfast boxer Aidan Walsh was the surprise hit for Ireland at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. With his hand raised in victory at the Kokugikan arena after defeating Mervin Clair to earn him a bronze medal, the 23-year-old Belfast welterweight celebrated by leaping in the air.

However, he landed awkwardly and the sight of him being carried out of the arena in a wheelchair raised fears for his future in the tournament. Scans showed he fractured an ankle and injured ligaments on the other, ruling him out of the silver medal fight against England’s Pat McCormack.

Roy Keane single-handedly took Manchester United over the finish line against Torino in the 1999 Champions League semifinals. United manager Alex Ferguson described it as “the most emphatic display of selflessness I’ve ever seen”. But the Corker native received a yellow card which ruled him out of the final against Bayern Munich.

Due to the nature of national hunt races, jockeys invariably miss major races due to injury. Jack Kennedy missed the Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals this year after breaking his leg for the fifth time in a fall in January.

On the day of the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Ruby Walsh, joint leader of the festival with three wins, parted ways with Abbyssial at the first obstacle of the Triumph Hurdle and suffered a compound fracture of his right humerus. As a result, he missed his Gold Cup ride on On His Own, which finished second.

Jonathan Moore had an even more heartbreaking experience during the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. After crashing at Naas last Saturday he was without Cheltenham rides Flooring Porter and Vanillier and could only watch as both claimed victories in Class 1 races.

Ireland’s challenge at the Rugby World Cup will depend to a large extent on players being able to remain injury-free throughout the tournament.

In 2015, Johnny Sexton, Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony missed out on the quarter-final loss to Argentina after injuring themselves in the final group game against France and Seán O’Brien being suspended for the last eight games. Sean McGoldrick: “The pain of missing the World Cup will only heal slowly”

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