Mac backed to return
Coleman predicts full recovery for injured team-mate but O’Neill rues loss of McCarthy
The physical scars may still be healing but Seamus Coleman says there is no psychological impact left on him after he ended his 10-month spell on the sidelines.
And the Donegal man says he's confident that compatriot and club-mate James McCarthy can make a full recovery after the trauma of a leg break all of his own.
"It was obviously heartbreaking for me to see. That's nothing to do with my own injury - it's because he is a very close friend. He is someone I really admire and it wasn't nice to see," a fit-again Coleman says of McCarthy, ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a fracture last weekend.
"James will be back from it. Now I want to go out there every week and do as well as I possibly can to show James that he will be back and he will be fine."
There has never been as much interest in a Premier League U23 league game between Everton and Portsmouth as Tuesday's clash of the teams at an empty Goodison Park.
But it was on that stage that Coleman made his comeback from injury, his first game since Neil Taylor broke his leg in that World Cup tie in Dublin last year.
"To be able to walk out the tunnel and see the stadium was great. I managed to get some minutes under my belt and that was fantastic. I treated it like a first-team game and gave it everything," Coleman said.
"I've been looking forward to that moment for the last few months - just being able to get the kit on, doing up the shin-pads, rolling my socks up and walking out there. It was great to be able to feel like a footballer again - it's a fantastic feeling."
Coleman showed with a crunching tackle on an opponent, 20 minutes into the game, that he was not holding back.
"That was more for me than it was the young lad. I just told him that at the time as well and he was fine with it," he said.
"I knew tackles and things like that were never going to be a bother. That one was more for the few fans that were here, that there are no psychological effects. "
There is no competitive game for Coleman to play in until September and that opening game in the Nations League, but O'Neill will at least get to work with his captain in the friendly games planned, away to Turkey (March) and France (May).
"Very much so, and we missed him," O'Neill said yesterday when asked of Coleman (29) will be a key figure for the next campaign.
"All teams would miss a world class player in their setup. Wales perhaps missed Gareth Bale for the last charge but we missed Seamus Coleman who is a world class player and it's great to see him back again, and hopefully he can steer clear of injury," added O'Neill.
Coleman says he will need to gradually ease his way back. "It's just a case of going game by game now. For now, it's get back into training and try to impress the manager by working hard and, fingers crossed, it won't be long before I am back out there.
"Training has been going great so far. I have enjoyed every second and I am just thankful to be back out there."
It's too early to say when McCarthy will be available to the Ireland boss again as he recovers from the broken leg suffered last weekend, though the midfielder appeared upbeat when he posted a message on social media following surgery yesterday.
"Just a quick message to say that my operation went well, thanks to all the staff involved," he said.
For O'Neill, the great pity is that McCarthy is now facing a 10-month absence, at a time when he had finally started to find form and looked to be clear of injury. Opportunities to work with McCarthy have been rare: the midfielder played in just two of the 12 games in World Cup qualification and the Ireland boss knows that McCarthy will be missed, especially as in recent weeks he was that rare figure of an Ireland international who was fully fit and starting games for his club in the Premier League.
"He's had a really tough time, a really tough time," O'Neill says of McCarthy.
"He's had a lot of injuries, his hamstring, then it looks as if he was back in the fold and it looked like Sam Allardyce was going to play him, which was great news.
"And then suddenly he picks up this horrific injury. That is a major blow to him and a big blow to us as he was playing in the Premier League."