James McClean gifts his Ireland jersey to teenager who is recovering from a spinal stroke

THE FAMILY of teenage Ireland fan Liam Roche, who was gifted James McClean's jersey while on his hospital bed in Temple Street last week, said the special surprise from his favourite Irish footballer has given him an 'unbelievable lift' in his recovery from spinal stroke.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 9:58 am
Liam pictured with younger brother Tadhg after playing a game for Clare U13s team about three years ago.

The video of the football mad 15 year-old Avenue United FC winger from Ennis, Co. Clare receiving a photograph of McClean presenting his match jersey worn against Azerbaijan to his youth coach John O'Malley went viral. The kind gesture reduced the stunned young fan to tears as his mum Dianne captured the magical moment on camera at his hospital bedside.

The Manchester United supporter also received a touching letter from Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who urged the youngster to 'stay strong through the challenging days'.

"We can only imagine how difficult this must be for you and your family and we hope our few words of sentiment can encourage you to stay strong through the challenging days," read the letter from the Man United boss.

Liam was kicking around a football just an hour before he sustained a spinal cord injury last month, experiencing sharp pains and losing mobility in both his arms and legs.

His father, Patrick explained his son is displaying encouraging signs in his recovery and says Liam is 'determined' to get back playing football and being back on the pitch with his teammates 'where he is happiest'.

"James McClean has always been Liam's favourite Irish player, mainly because of his energy and love playing for the Republic of Ireland and also because Liam plays the same position, left wing for Avenue United FC in Ennis," explained Patrick.

"Liam's coach, John O'Malley contacted former Avenue player Gary Seery who is now on coaching staff with Stephen Kenny and together they helped bring this about.

Liam pictured with the Clare Division One trophy last season. His team also won Division 1 at U13s in 2019.

"John called me on Tuesday at about 2pm, sent me the picture of James and Gary with the jersey. I called my wife Dianne who was with Liam and she was ready to record Liam's reaction when he received the message from John.

"It has given Liam an unbelievable lift in his fight to get back on his feet. The spinal stroke happened on September 18th. He was perfectly kicking the ball at half-time of his younger brother's game. An hour later, suddenly he got sharp pains and lost all power in legs and arms."

Thankfully Liam's mobility is improving and Patrick and the Roche family are grateful for the high quality care their son is receiving at Temple Street hospital.

"Movement came back to his arms in the first week," he said. "He's still not 100% but he only began to get movement in both feet in the last 10 days, thank God. Everyone from physios, nurses, occupational therapists and doctors in Temple Street are amazing and they're really encouraging Liam in his recovery.

Liam with his two brothers and mother Diane at the Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland match a few years ago.

"We are just praying that he can get back on his feet and please God, eventually get back on the pitch with his teammates as soon as possible where he is happiest."

Spinal strokes occur following a disruption in the blood supply which can cause injury or damage to tissues and block nervous impulses travelling along the spinal cord.

Liam's family admit they had no idea someone so young could suffer from a spinal stroke but they are confident he's on the right road and are grateful for all the support they've received. They can't wait to see him back on his feet and eventually kicking a ball again with his two football loving brothers Sean and Tadhg.

"We couldn't believe something like this could happen to any young person, especially a 15 year-old that has been playing soccer since he was three years-old. He never missed a game with any injuries so I don't know how a clot formed and travelled to his spine. Hopefully he is on the right road now. The physios are doing great work with him every day. It will take time but between all the support from his teammates, coaches at Avenue United and his schoolmates in Kilmihil, he is determined to get back to a normal life."