DUBAI // The latest and most serious victim of the UAE's ill-fated Emirates Cup of Nations campaign says he thought he was suffering a heart attack after blood clots developed on his lungs after the tournament.
Garrett Noonan, the Dubai Hurricanes second-row forward, was only released from hospital this week, three weeks after playing against Kenya in the final match of the four nation competition in Dubai.
The Irishman, who had started the tournament by celebrating his international debut for his adopted nation, had developed a cyst at the back of his knee.
When that subsequently burst, without his knowledge, it led to blood clots forming on his lungs.
After he suddenly suffered breathing difficulties, he was taken from his home in Jumeirah Lakes Towers to the American Hospital three days after Christmas.
"I got up, was making some breakfast and then about 20 minutes later I could not breathe," Noonan, 29, said. "I was in hospital for eight days. Now, rugby is the least of my worries at the moment. My main concern is getting back to health.
"I need an operation to remove the cyst, and even with the blood-thinners, if I got caught playing rugby and was cut, it would be a serious problem." Noonan plans to return to his job as a project manager for a construction company next week, but is facing up to at least three months off from playing rugby.
The UAE will likely have to factor without him for their Asian Five Nations campaign later this year.
Noonan is the latest in a lengthy casualty list for the national team.
Wayne Marsters, the UAE rugby manager, had to plumb the country's shallow player pool just to field a side in the new competition in December.
Marsters only happened on the news of Noonan when he rang his second-row partner, Greg Thompson, to check how surgery had gone on the cheekbone Thompson fractured against Brazil.
"Greg told me I should be more concerned about Garrett, so I called him, and he said he had these blood clots on his lungs and he thought he was suffering a heart attack," Marsters said. "He has to take it easy for a few months."
With a new performance manager set to be unveiled soon, and the possibility of increased funding for the domestic game, the UAE can look forward with optimism to 2012.
However, much still needs to be done on the field judging by the travails faced in their Cup of Nations.
"Problems like that become more of a problem when you don't have depth," Marsters said.
"The All Blacks had to get to their fourth choice fly-half to win the World Cup, but things like that are probably a lot more easy for them."
THE WALKING WOUNDED
The UAE’s maiden Emirates Cup of Nations campaign was like a “Staycation of Suffering” with barely any senior player managing a full campaign without some ailment or otherwise:
15 Tim Fletcher (Injured hamstring on Sevens duty); 14 Imad Reyal (Suspended for a dangerous tackle); 13 Quihen Marais (Stomach illness); 12 Duncan Murray (Long-term suspension); 11 Sean Hurley (Injured ankle); 10 Murray Strang (Injured hamstring on Sevens duty); 9 Stuart Gibb (Injured in warm-up before first match); 8 Alistair Thompson (Unscathed); 7 Jamie Clarke (Stomach illness); 6 Renier Els (Injured knees); 5 Garrett Noonan (Blood clots); 4 Greg Thompson (Fractured cheekbone); 3 Mike Riley (Illness and a neck injury); 2 Dan Heal (Unscathed); 1 Chris Jones-Griffiths (Unscathed)