Derby defender Mark O’Brien has received another injury setback. The youngster underwent knee surgery last night to repair the niggling knee injury which has kept him sidelined in parts of the current campaign. A defect on his knee joint surface has subsequently caused the knee to swell, as it has during the season.
The 20-year old is unfortunately no stranger to injury, he’s had more than his fair share of problems. First of all, are all these injuries bad luck or is he prone to them? I’d like to believe it’s bad luck, I’m sure it is. We’ve seen glimpses of the future with O’Brien bursting onto the first team scene at just 16-years old, making his debut at Watford on the final day of the disappointing 2008/09 season. The following season he was tipped to be involved more, and perhaps would have been – particularly given the number of injuries throughout 2009/10, but a health scare prevented that. Manager Nigel Clough, by his own omission, said that he would have been in action more had it not been for that. Watch the below video, which was made after successful heart surgery.
Ankle surgery limited the former Cherry Orchard youth player to just a couple of games in the 2010/11 season and restricted him to predominately youth and reserve fixtures. However this didn’t stop Mark from progressing further and bouncing back, he began the 2011/12 campaign in the heart of the Derby defence – flourishing with the experience of Jason Shackell. The pair made a number of appearances together. Just as we saw O’Brien competing in the Championship, looking much more seasoned than his age, disaster struck – in a December training session he damaged his cruciate ligaments, which subsequently ruled him out for the remainder of that campaign.
After playing in a couple of pre-season friendlies, the Dublin born player felt swelling in his knee (which has ultimately led to it getting into its current state) and had to take a step, once again, onto the sidelines. He was eased back into action, initially making his return with the Under-21s squad, and finally came his first appearance in the first team for around ten months – coming on as a substitute in the defeat at Peterborough United in October. He eventually made his return to the starting eleven for the first time in thirteen months with a start in the victory at Bristol City, which took place in December. Nigel Clough had pencilled the defender to start in February’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday but an injury issue, the same which is keeping him out currently, in the warm up forced him out of the starting eleven. And of course, as I’ve already mentioned, he has now been ruled for a further six months.
It really is a devastating story. We all know how good O’Brien has looked for the Rams so it does come as sad news. He has shown supporters what he is capable of, particularly at such a young age. It does seem that every time supporters see him doing well again that it follows by injury. From what I’ve seen, the Republic of Ireland Under 21 international appears as a hard working, battling and confident defender – who seems to thrive with playing with an experienced centre-back. Rams boss Clough has stated that he’s confident of the defender returning well, “he is strong and he is young. He has a good chance of bouncing back”.
Considering that injury, I certainly believe Derby need to be on the market for a couple of centre-halves in the summer. Captain Shaun Barker is set to return in October, at the earliest, so he won’t be available for the beginning of the campaign. As I’ve commented before, the Rams need some experienced signings to push on.
Lastly, good luck to O’B with the recovery – I’m sure he’ll do so as he has before, then maybe he’s got all of his career injuries out the way so he can enjoy an injury-free career with Derby!