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Black Cat Gavin battles back to fitness

Gavin Donoghue, Sunderland AFC

Dublin born Gavin Donoghue’s injury nightmare began last July when an innocuous challenge during a pre-season match saw him hobble from the field in pain.

The prognosis was bleak when an x-ray and MRI scan revealed a hairline fracture to his right foot.

Gavin has undergone a significant journey in the last few months and Sunderland’s U18 match on Saturday 31st March 2007 will finally see him reach the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

After the diagnosis, his foot was placed in an Aircast boot for eight weeks and during this time he undertook a programme of intense rehabilitation designed by Academy of Light physiotherapist Peter Brand.

During his treatment he stepped up a gear at College and produced some excellent BTEC and NVQ work, which helped him relieve the monotony of injury and maintain a positive outlook. Gavin said:

“I couldn’t believe my luck when the injury occurred but having discussed it with the medical staff I was confident of a quick recovery. Rehab in the gym and swimming pool went well, and I progressed with my academic studies which took on a new relevance.”

On 20th October 2006 whilst playing in an U18 league game Gavin received a kick on exactly the same spot as his previous injury. A further x-ray and MRI scan showed a crack in the same bone. Gavin had his foot in a plaster cast for three weeks before the decision was made to operate on the injury. A bone graft was taken from his heel and placed into the fractured area, which was then pinned with a titanium pin.

Gavin spoke of his frustration with the setback:

“I was totally devastated and my morale was at its lowest point especially as this time I needed an operation.”

Throughout both recovery periods an Exogen machine was used to aid the healing process and once again Gavin continued his upper-body work as well as strengthening his opposite leg. While injured, Gavin was able to get to the training ground, classrooms and physiotherapy areas with the use of crutches.

Thanks to an excellent rehabilitation programme and fantastic support from Academy Manager, Ged McNamee and Head of Education & Welfare, Brian Buddle, Gavin is due to appear on the bench for Sunderland’s U18 match this weekend with local rivals Middlesbrough.

Gavin greatly valued the support he received through the whole process,

“I really have appreciated the support and encouragement of fellow players, Academy staff and College tutors during this very hard time. Now I’m fully fit I can’t wait to play in a competative game again.”

Sunderland AFC and LFE have agreed an extended period of time with him at the end of his apprenticeship to ensure he does not miss out on football development time and has a fair chance at getting a professional contract.

Head of Education & Welfare, Brian Buddle added:

“We strongly believe that a young player like Gavin should be fully supported in order to help him to cope psychologically with what is clearly a very difficult period. We hope that now his injury is behind him he can show he is worthy of a professional contract.”

LFE would like to wish Gavin well and the best of luck for his returning match this Saturday. LFE would also like to extend many thanks to Brian Buddle of Sunderland AFC for his contribution to this story.

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