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Glentoran's Caragh Hamilton in a race with Virgil Van Dijk to return from cruciate ligament agony



Caragh Hamilton is laid up after sustaining the nightmare injury.

Caragh Hamilton is laid up after sustaining the nightmare injury.

Stephen Hamilton

Caragh Hamilton is laid up after sustaining the nightmare injury.

The starting pistol has sounded. The race is on. Virgil van Dijk beware, Caragh Hamilton is coming after you.

They will never meet on the pitch, but after suffering cruciate ligament injuries just four days apart last month, Liverpool fan and Glentoran Women forward Hamilton is now battling with the Anfield defender to see who can make it back first.

Hamilton, who went under the knife last Thursday, has a bit of time to make up after Van Dijk had his surgery within 48 hours of his injury against Everton. She may play at an entirely different level than the Dutch ace, but she expects that both will go through the same mental battle on their journey towards a return.

"There was an interview with one of the other Liverpool players and he was asked about Van Dijk. They said that in the first couple of weeks he was going through hell, so he was obviously finding it quite frustrating and difficult," said Hamilton, who was struck by the injury just days before her 24th birthday.

"That's what I am experiencing at the minute, these first two weeks are hard when you are just so limited to what you can do and you feel like you are never going to get out of this.

"You can easily fall into the mindset of, 'When is this going to end?' You want to see progression straight away and you want to see yourself moving forward and improving, but it is very slow at the start and you have to be so patient, particularly in these first two weeks and even the first two months.

"I saw a quote that I thought was really good, 'Little by little, little becomes a lot'.

"It's about being patient and not getting frustrated and keep making tiny little progressions day by day and baby steps at the start. Anything is better than nothing."

Hugely positive within herself, Hamilton pointed to friends, family, team-mates and particularly her husband Michael as being excellent sources of encouragement. Her deep Christian faith is something that has seen her through difficult times in the past and that's where she will draw strength from again as she faces at least six months of hard work.

"I think one thing that really was strengthened when I was injured previously was my faith," she said.

"I'd put so much into football and it consumed my identity. When I didn't have that I had to stand back and say football doesn't define who you are because that is going to fade, be it through injury or when you retire.

"You can't build your life on things that could be gone in an instant. You need other good foundations and I hope I will be an example through this period and people will see positivity and something that maybe encourages them."

Hamilton had made a blistering return to the game after taking some time away for various reasons. Her goals had helped Glentoran to the top of the Danske Bank Women's Premiership and that was followed by an immediate return to the Northern Ireland team.

Things then came crashing down during a win over Cliftonville Ladies in mid-October.

"It's been the craziest couple of months. I couldn't have written it at the start of the year the way things would pan out," said Hamilton.

"I didn't see myself going back to football this year. Things were going well and I got back into the international squad, which I didn't expect and hadn't planned for. I was hoping to be a part of these big games, but then injury hit.

"I could never have pictured any of this happening at all. It's been crazy and a crazy year in all - for everyone."

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