Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Crusaders: Drummond concedes O’Neill is irreplacable

Wayne Drummond could be thrust into the spotlight at a crucial stage of the season but the Crusaders goalkeeper is only thinking about the devastating twist of fate that has sidelined his comrade Sean O’Neill.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter had a look at two shot-stoppers at Seaview last night, knowing he must bolster his options ahead of the final sprint to grab silverware.

One thing is certain — O’Neill will be a hard act to follow.

The Crues number one is nursing a dislocated shoulder following an awkward fall at Windsor Park against Linfield in the fifth round of the Irish Cup.

A season which was building towards a thrilling climax has been cruelly cut short. Drummond is now waiting in the wings, willing to answer the call should he be selected for today’s home clash with Ballymena United.

But right now, all his thoughts are with the injured O’Neill because while the Crues have lost one of the best keepers in the league, Drummond has lost his trusted training partner.

“What has happened to Sean is horrific,” said former Sky Blues keeper Drummond. “Injuries can happen and I suffered a bad one at Rangers but I really feel for him, missing the rest of the season. I’ve been lucky enough to be his back-up and he’s been a great help to me in training. But he’s not just a great goalkeeper, he’s a great character to have in the dressing room.

“Team morale is very important and Sean plays a big part in that. I wish him all the best and hope he makes a quick recovery.”

O’Neill will miss next Saturday’s IRN-BRU League Cup final against Cliftonville, but the Hatchetmen are also hoping to produce fireworks in the title race, Irish Cup and Setanta Cup — a trophy which they famously won for the first time last season.

O’Neill has saved the Crues on countless occasions this season and his absence will be keenly felt.

“Sean’s form has been outstanding,” added Drummond. “Not just this season but last season as well.

“He won two trophies, the IRN-BRU Cup and Setanta Cup and helped the team reach the Irish Cup final.

“Someone else is going to have to fulfil that role but it’s clear that Crusaders probably wouldn’t be in the position they are in without the superb form of Sean.”

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