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Footballer Grace left in coma after attack returns to club

Niall Grace

A footballer left in a coma for over a week after being attacked has returned to the sidelines to watch his team in action.

Institute player Niall Grace sustained serious head injuries in a one-punch assault in Londonderry city centre last month.

The 23-year-old has astounded his family and doctors in the Royal Victoria Hospital who were treating him, due to the speed of his recovery.

While it will still be a few weeks at least before he dons his Institute jersey, he intends to begin training as soon as possible.

And at the weekend he was able to watch the team play.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Niall said: "I know how lucky I am to be back home and doing as well as I am.

"My family can't believe how quickly I have come on and neither can the doctors.

"I didn't realise just how ill I was until I came out of the coma and people were telling me how close things got for me.

"The doctors put me in the coma to take the pressure off my brain, but I wasn't in pain so I wasn't aware of how much danger I had been in.

"Once I came around I was determined to get back on my feet, but the doctors were surprised at how quickly I was able to walk to the showers and toilet by myself.

"For the first couple of days I was a bit shaky on my legs, but I just kept doing the daily tasks they set me.

"Everyone is over the moon that I am back home in Derry and it is great for me.

"I have been amazed at the amount of support shown to me and my family by everyone, even people that I don't even know. There have been so many messages on Facebook, it has been incredible, but me and my whole family are very thankful for them."

While Niall's speedy recovery has surprised his family and the doctors caring for him, it isn't quite fast enough for him.

He explained: "I am not really someone who likes to sit in the house and do nothing, I am keen to get back playing football, but I have to be patient for now.

"The doctors have told me I can start training again, so long as I don't do too much.

"They said I can't do any contact sport for at least a few weeks, which I understand, so I am happy to go along with that and I think my mummy and daddy are really happy that I am going along with that.

"It was great for me to be able to watch 'Stute at the weekend and to see them win, but I won't be fully content until I have the jersey back on. That's the ultimate goal for me right now."

Belfast Telegraph