The player’s worst fears were confirmed by the results of that second scan as it confirmed he had suffered cruciate damage for the second time in four years.
O’Neill received the news yesterday at the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford following the injury he sustained in last Sunday week’s Allianz FL Division 1 league tie against Galway. O’Neill underwent a first scan days after that game in Pearse Stadium but the results were unclear and that necessitated further investigations.
O’Neill incurred the injury in the 14th minute of the tie with Galway when he landed awkwardly on the ground when trying to claim possession. The 22-year-old was helped off by the Cork medical stuff before leaving the stadium on crutches.
He has had previous problems with his knee as he tore his cruciate ligament in April 2008. That injury occurred when he was playing for his club Ballyclough in a club intermediate football championship game and resulted in him missing the remainder of the season. O’Neill’s period out of action is still unknown but it represents a huge setback to Cork manager Conor Counihan’s plans as he plots the county’s defence of the Sam Maguire. Cork now look set to face into the championship without six of last year’s winning squad following the retirement of Derek Kavanagh and the departures of panellists Paddy O’Shea, Kevin McMahon, John Hayes and Kieran O’Connor.
O’Neill, who captained the Cork U21s to All-Ireland glory in 2009, made his name at the top level that same summer when he broke through into the senior side.
He started at full-forward in the 2009 All-Ireland final defeat to Kerry and scored an early goal before Cork fell to an ultimate defeat. Last season he was restricted to a substitute role but played a key role in Cork’s All-Ireland triumph, particularly in the semi-final defeat of Dublin when drafted in during the second half.