The man whose goal sent Ireland to the 1994 World Cup finals has revealed he is battling cancer.
Alan McLoughlin was afforded legendary status by the Irish fans after he scored against Northern Ireland.
His late Windsor Park goal in November 1993 sent the Republic to USA ’94 and that famous win over Italy at Giants Stadium.
Now McLoughlin has revealed to the Irish Sun that he watches re-runs of his Belfast goal as he recovers from an operation to remove a kidney.
He told the Irish Sun: “No matter what they take out of me, I will always be the man who scored the goal at Windsor Park and I will always have that goal to drive me on.
“The one thing this illness has taught me is perspective - but it has also made me reminisce about the past and how much we have to be proud of as a family.
“It is hard to believe that I scored that goal almost 20 years ago now but when I have been down in the dumps of late I have looked back at that night, at my ten years with the Ireland squad.
“I’ve been on YouTube more than once to watch that goal, to relive those great nights with the Irish players and the Irish fans.
“They were the best years of my life. I’ve always known that but I can really appreciate it now.”
McLoughlin first noticed cancer symptoms six weeks ago after returning to Portsmouth with the youth team he coaches.
He explained: “I had taken the Portsmouth under-14 team to a game at AFC Wimbledon six weeks ago and had dropped them back to the academy in the mini-bus when I decided I needed a pee.
“I went to the loo and nothing was happening which was strange so I pushed a bit harder and started peeing blood, blood and urine.
“I just jumped back from the urinal and called out to Lucas, one of the physios who had travelled with us. He came running in, thinking I had collapsed or something and when he saw the blood he told me to get straight to the hospital.
“I drove straight to Swindon hospital, still in my Pompey gear, and rang my wife Deby on the way.
“When I got there they thought - rightly so - that it was nothing more than a bladder infection or a kidney stone.
“The best way I could describe it was it felt like I was having period pain. They sent me home but within two hours I was in agony again. I was re-admitted on the Sunday, had a cat scan on the Monday and that night the doctor came to my bedside and pulled the curtain.
“I thought he was going to tell me it was a gall stone but he just said they found a tumour on the kidney and it would have to come out.
“The blood clot I had passed was the warning sign. I just remember putting my hand up to my face and thinking, ‘How am I going to tell Deby and my two girls Abby and Megan and my mum and dad?’
“I was more worried about telling people than I was about having cancer. Then I apologised to the doctor for about ten minutes for having made him have to tell me something like that which is typical of me.”
Speaking to the Irish Sun, Alan explained how difficult it was to tell his two young daughters of his plight.
He added: “I wanted to tell the girls to their face, I wanted to look them in the eye and give them the news and that was the hardest thing. It cuts me up now even talking about it.
“A good family friend has just died from the same disease. They had seen her become gravely ill with cancer and I know they thought it was going to do the same thing to their dad.
“Cancer is a frightening word if you are detached from it but when you have seen what it can do as a family, it is terrifying.
“Thankfully my wife and my girls, like their dad, are resilient. We had our little moment in the hospital, we had our cry with the girls and with my mum and dad and then we dusted ourselves down and said we’d get on with it.”
McLoughlin hopes his story will help Irish men understand how crucial it is to keep their health in check.
Alan said: “It is vital that anyone who passes blood or notices anything unusual in their urine or stools takes action. I’ve been lucky, I didn’t sit on my hands and it might have saved my life.
“I passed blood that weekend and on one more occasion before the operation when I passed another clot. I had played in a charity match two weeks previously and I had got a kick that day, I might well have put it down to that.
“I had passed blood in the past, after I was kicked in the kidneys or in the stomach and thought nothing of it.
“You can’t do that, no matter how embarrassing it might be. Get to a doctor or a hospital. Chances are it is nothing serious but I know now it is not a chance worth taking.”
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