Armagh forward Aidan Nugent to miss inter-county season after cruciate injury
ARMAGH forward Aidan Nugent hopes to return to action by the end of next year's National League after his hopes for the 2020 season were destroyed in a split second during a club game.
The St Patrick's, Cullyhanna forward jumped to catch a routine ball against Grange and feared he had damaged the cruciate ligament in his left knee the moment he landed.
MRI scans confirmed that and the free-scoring attacker now faces an operation and months of rehab before he can play again.
“I just went to turn and the knee popped,” said Nugent.
“I knew something wasn't right and the MRI scan showed that the cruciate was gone.”
Nugent wasn't the only player to suffer a serious injury in the match - Grange clubman Justin Kieran's left leg is no in plaster after he had surgery on an ankle injury.
“You never think it's going to be you,” said Nugent.
“You see other boys around you doing it and you pity them and the way I look at it is, what's done is done, and now I just want to get the operation and get back at it.
“Hopefully I'll get operated on in the next few weeks and, all being well, I'll be aiming to be back by the end of the (National) League next year.”
The inter-county season is due to resume in October beginning with the completion of the National Leagues followed by a knockout Championship. With such a short window for games, any serious injury would potentially be season-ending.
“A hamstring injury would put somebody out so another injury could easily have happened,” said Nugent.
“It's one of those things – you just have to take it on the chin and try and come back a bit stronger. It's not as if I'm the first person to do their cruciate. Plenty of people have done it and come back even better so that's my aim and we have good physios and doctors there to make sure that it happens.
“You have to say positive, there's no point in dwelling on it otherwise it would set you back.”
Even though his left knee was swelled-up dramatically, Nugent cheered on his Cullyhanna team-mates throughout Sunday night's championship loss to Pearse Og at the Athletic Grounds.
The south Armagh men had battled back from seven points down to force a tense finale but time ran out on them and the Ogs progressed to a quarter-final against Madden.
“It's tough watching on,” said Dundalk-based schoolteacher Nugent.
“We didn't have the preparation we wanted – I know it's the same for both teams – but we would have liked to have had another few games under our belt. It's one of those things.”
The 2019 finalists, Ballymacnab Round Towers, were the highest-profile faller in last weekend's senior championship games.
Stephen Reel's Cullyhanna side would probably still be in the hunt if Nugent had been fit to play on Sunday night but the St Pat's manager expects him to come “back stronger”.
“He would be a massive loss to any team in Ireland,” said Reel.
“He's a fantastic footballer in the prime of his career and we're looking forward to getting him back. He has been driving the lads on even though he had the disappointment last week. He couldn't have been a better leader than he was.
“He has a lot of rehab to do but I've no doubt he'll do it and he'll be back stronger.”