Medics are putting no time-frame on Republic of Ireland skipper Seamus Coleman’s recovery from a double leg fracture.
The Everton full-back underwent surgery to pin the tibia and fibula in his right leg in Dublin on Saturday after Wales defender Neil Taylor’s challenge during Friday’s 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw left him in agony and his season over.
Surgeons are confident the 28-year-old will make a full recovery, but amid speculation he could be sidelined for up to six months, Ireland manager O’Neill was more cautious.
When asked how long Coleman might be out of action, O’Neill told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek show: “I’m not sure, I would only be guessing. Even the doctors and surgeons wouldn’t be terribly sure.
“Sometimes there are complications afterwards and injuries can be more prolonged, other times it can be clean and clear sailing.
“It will take some time, but Seamus has great determination and sometimes those things work very much in your favour, in terms of recovery.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Coleman, who is still in hospital, will be able to play any further part in his country’s bid to reach next summer’s finals in Russia with the reverse fixture against Wales bringing an end to the qualifying campaign in October.
He faces a lengthy period of rehabilitation which will rob both his club and country of his services for an extended period at a time when he was at the height of his powers, and that will come as a devastating blow to a player who has grown in stature by the season to establish himself as a genuine Premier League and international player.
O’Neill, who visited Coleman on Friday evening before he had surgery, said: “He had the operation yesterday [Saturday] morning at 8:30am, that was successful. He has realised everything that has happened and is obviously very disappointed.
“It will take some time to heal. It’s a double break, but it has been pinned up now and screwed in. I know the doctors and surgeons are all very, very pleased with the way the operation has gone and now it’s time for recuperation.
“I saw him the evening of the injury, he was fairly groggy. It’s a devastating blow for the lad. He was having a phenomenal season at his club and a phenomenal season for us as captain.”