Now that we’re out of the harum-scarum, week after week action of the League and have a further horizon to contemplate – with 13th May branded into our collective minds as the next date to focus on – it’s as good a time as any to have a look at player availability, in terms of who’s injured, who’s on the mend, when are lads likely to be available and all that.
Mike Finnerty has a good piece in this week’s Mayo News (here) which summarises most of this. Those of you who’ve listened to the Mayo News football podcast (in case you haven’t it’s here) will also have heard Edwin McGreal recount what Stephen Rochford said on this very topic after the match on Sunday. If you want to listen back to it again, the relevant bit on the podcast starts around the 40 minute mark.
Let’s start with the bad news, the very bad news, the Lee Keegan out for “three to four months” news. Lee has already undergone his shoulder surgery so it’s now a case of rehab and recovery. If we make it through Connacht he won’t be there for any of that, if we’re shunted into the qualifiers, he won’t be around for that fun and games either. Bottom line is that if we’re to make to the All-Ireland Series and the novel new Super 8s, we’re going to have to do so without the services of possibly the finest player ever to don the Mayo jersey.
The good news is that the bad news on Lee is the only bad news in what is otherwise a good news story. If you follow me.
Cillian O’Connor, who limped off with a torn hamstring on the same day that Lee got poleaxed, has about four to five weeks to go before he’ll be ready to get back to full training. He should be fine for the Galway game.
Ready for action again already are Chris Barrett (who lined out with Belmullet the weekend before last) and Donal Vaughan, who’s expected to start for his new club Castlebar Mitchels in the championship next month. Ed reports on the podcast that Brendan Harrison is “touch and go” to be ready for Aghamore’s championship opener in two weeks time but that he’s another who’ll be back in the frame for the Galway match.
Back playing ball too is Keith Higgins, who played his first football match of the year with Ballyhaunis last Saturday, and who could also be back in the frame for the showdown with the neighbours in Castlebar. As Mike and Ed both confirm, the arrangement with Keith was that he’d spend the League with the hurlers but that he and Stephen Rochford would speak again after the spring matches were over. That discussion has yet to happen but Ed says on the podcast that Stephen is “reasonably confident” the Ballyhaunis man will be back with the squad for May.
Also in the squad and involved in full training already is Cian Hanley. The young Ballagh man lined out with his club last weekend and, depending on his progress, he could well be an intriguing new option in the forward line for us over the coming months.
Ed also mentions Evan Regan as another player likely to be back in action in time to face Galway. The Ballina man wasn’t mentioned by Rochy in that injury update (as Ed says, time was short and not every player was name-checked in it) but, when Evan suffered that bad injury against Kerry back in early February, it was reported that he’d be out for up to eight weeks. That takes us to early April, which would leave Evan a month or more full training ahead of our championship opener. On that basis, he should be good to go too.
So, that’s it. All good news aside from Lee, about which nothing at this stage but the passage of time can help.