It’s almost two weeks until our next League outing – another tough one, away to table-topping Donegal up at Ballybofey on the last Sunday of the month – but it’s still worth having a quick look at the current situation on the injury/availability front.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: Castlebar Mitchels’ heroics up at Breffni Park on Saturday night mean that the likes of Tom Cunniffe, Paddy Durcan, Barry Moran and Neil Douglas (as well as, perhaps, one or two others) are all out of bounds for inter-county purposes not just for the Donegal game but the Monaghan and Kerry ones as well. If their carousing round the town with the Andy Merrigan Cup next month is anyway civilised, though, we can expect to see this battle-hardened quartet available for county selection again for the Roscommon match at the end of March.
March also means the start of the Connacht U21 championship. This year, for the first time in ages, we’ve got a more charitable draw within the province as we’re paired with Leitrim in a semi-final that’s due to take place at some time around St Patrick’s Day. (I’ve done a quick search just now and I can’t find a definitive date/time for this game, though I know it is to be held at a Leitrim venue). The start of the U21 action is likely to impact on the availability of some players at senior level, notably Diarmuid O’Connor, Stephen Coen, David Kenny, Michael Hall and Conor Loftus. The Kerry game the week before the U21s play Leitrim is the match of immediate concern in this respect.
Narrowing back into the Donegal game, the Mayo News (paper and digital variants) has an update today on who might be back and on who are currently carrying knocks. Less positive news first: Tom Parsons (hip), Donal Vaughan (hamstring) and Caolan Crowe (knee) are all nursing their way back to full fitness at the minute. I’ve no idea if any or all of them will be okay for Ballybofey but you’d have to hope that, as is laid down in Meat Loaf’s Law, two of them might be.
Ready for the more positive news? Keith Higgins should obviously be okay to start the next day, having put in a strong performance off the bench against Dublin and, since then, having lined out for the hurlers (also against Donegal, by the way) last Sunday. Lee Keegan is back in full training as well, while Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Freeman are expected back this week. Stephen Coen and Mark Ronaldson are also likely to be available for selection for Sunday week.
It looks, then, those injuries and U21 commitments notwithstanding, that our injury crisis might at last be easing. The depth of our problems in relation to unavailable players is nicely highlighted in this week’s Mayo News, where Mike Finnerty sketches out a Missing XV, which he reckons could have given the team that started for us against the Dubs a right run for their money. You’ll need to get the paper itself, though, for full details on Mike’s Fantasy Fifteen.
Support the lads all the way: play the Mayo GAA Players Welfare Fund Lotto – here.