An amputee whose dream is to compete for his country in the Paralympics next year has been left distraught after thieves stole his running blade.
Shane McLaughlin (42), from Clones, Co Monaghan, says he has been walking the roads around the town since the early hours of yesterday morning in case the culprits may have thrown the carbon fibre prosthetic over a hedge.
The custom-made blade, one of only three in Ireland, was stolen from his car outside his home at Clonkeencole sometime over the weekend.
The father-of-two, who had his leg amputated in 2012 after being kicked by a farm animal, is competing in the shot put and discus throw events at the Berlin Open next week.
But without his blade his hopes of breaking into the national team with a good performance in the world-ranking tournament have been dashed, he said.
"I'm absolutely gutted," he said. "This has put me back to the day I lost my leg. The blade is a part of my life, it is designed for me.
"At this present minute, I'm speaking to my coach and I'm telling him that I'm thinking of quitting.
"What's the point of working so hard every day of the week to try to achieve something and then this happens?"
Mr McLaughlin said he can still compete in the Berlin competition with his prosthetic leg but the pain of using it will hamper his chances of climbing the world rankings, which would allow him to compete for Ireland in the Paralympics in Rio next October.
"It's a big downer," he said. "When I lost my limb first it was like losing a loved one, and it's taken me back to that.
"I haven't slept all night. I'm walking the roads since 5am looking in hedges for it."
Gardai confirmed they are investigating the incident.
Mr McLaughlin has appealed for anyone who knows the whereabouts of the blade to leave it where it can be found.