In 2019, Aoife Mannion made perhaps her biggest career leap to date, but her progression was devastatingly halted.
The defender was a stand-out player in a declining Birmingham City side, and as a result, she was snapped up by Manchester City.
In one fell swoop, a WSL title was within touching distance, along with the opportunities of Champions League football and domestic finals. Not to mention call-ups ahead of potentially the biggest women’s football event the country has seen – a home European Championship.
However, all those dreams came apart against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. In the dying minutes of the first leg, a recovery challenge led to an injury that is too common in the women’s game.
Mannion ruptured her ACL, and as a result, her debut season with City was over before it began.Embed from Getty Images
“I wasn’t in the same writhing, unbearable pain that a lot of people say they are when they do an ACL. I seem to have been spared that,” Mannion told Kieran Theivam of The Athletic.
“So other than the really uncomfortable feeling, the sound and just collapsing into a heap on the floor, at that point, we just didn’t really know what had happened.”
Making the Comeback
Incredibly, the 24-year-old managed to finish the match against Atletico as she limped through the final minutes. Many players do the same – trying to ‘run it off’ and convince themselves it’s merely a sprain and not a season-ending injury.
However, it wasn’t long before Mannion knew the reality and full extent of what happened.
“As soon as the whistle went, I jogged off into the changing room and burst into tears. I knew in my heart that something I’d never experienced before was happening,” she reflected.
Mannion also added she is making good recovery progress at home, six months on from the injury. And despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she is still in regular contact with the medical staff at Manchester City.Embed from Getty Images
City have been encouraging injured players to make the most of their time out injured. Teammate Karen Bardsley told the Two Shot Podcast how she has been documenting her injury process. The 35-year-old hopes other players might find her journey helpful when they suffer similar injuries.
Reportedly, ACL injuries are up to eight times more likely to happen to female athletes. There are many theories surrounding the reasons why, however, more investigation is needed.
Despite this season’s hiatus, the grind doesn’t stop for those fighting for a comeback. Whenever the 2019/20 campaign resumes, Mannion will hopefully be close to a comeback of her own.
To read the full, original interview on The Athletic, click here.