As the country recovers from the England defeat, Mick O'Connell bravely battles with a personal nightmare caused by the game that nearly killed him.
It was just another match last November for the talented 25 year-old rugby fanatic, but it brought him close to death and has left him with serious spinal injuries. The only parts of his body which he can move are his head, his right forearm and right hand. Neither he nor the doctors at the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoighre know for sure what the future holds.
O'Connell, who played underage with Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer, remembers clearly the terrible moment that turned his life upside down. Playing for Cork club Dolphin against Clonakilty, he was readying himself for the first scrum. "I didn't drop my head fast enough and it hit off the other guy's shoulder as the scrums came together," he recalls. "I knew straight away I was in trouble. I suddenly felt as if I was floating. My arms went light and I felt as if I was going up in the air, even though I hit the ground. It was terrifying."
"I have no regrets. I still love the game. It's just one of those things that happened". He does not know how much his condition will improve, though he has made progress. "At the start I couldn't scratch my nose. Now I can shake your hand." He is also acutely aware that a massive amount of money will need to be raised to facilitate the changes to his life, a fact that embarrasses him greatly.
To this end, friends and rugby colleagues have established the Mick O'Connell Appeal Fund, with the support and backing of the Irish Examiner. The first major fundraiser takes place on May 11, which they have named Mick O'Connell Day. Appeal fund chairman Paul Mitchell hopes the sponsored 5K walk/run from Cork's Musgrave Park rugby ground will attract thousands and raise a substantial amount of money.
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