So it appears that it’s two steps forward but maybe three (or more) steps backwards in relation to injuries within the squad as we start to gear up for the challenge of facing Galway in the first round of the Connacht championship next month. Once more, as this report in the Mayo News confirms, it’s club matches that have proved unkind to us – with Michael Conroy, Brian Gallagher, Chris Barrett and Enda Varley all suffering injuries of some kind while on club duty at the weekend – while it was also club action that put Barry Moran and Cathal Freeman out of commission a few weeks back.
But, despite the fact that we seem to be suffering more than our fair share of injuries at the moment, it’s not all bad news from the treatment room. Current All-Stars Alan Dillon and Keith Higgins have both recovered from their respective ailments and both should be fine to line out against Galway in Salthill in just under four weeks time.
This is, of course, very welcome news. Keith and Alan are both vastly experienced senior players at this stage and the first fifteen for Pearse Stadium will be greatly strengthened by their inclusion. I don’t think there was ever any major worry that either of them would be missing for next month but having Keith’s cool head back in defence and Alan’s intelligent probings in the forwards both still constitute a major plus for us. So far, so positive.
On the debit side, the injuries suffered last weekend by the four players mentioned above – three of whom got significant game time in the league – are all of concern, especially that of Michael Conroy who was one of the few forwards to impress the last day against Dublin.
In Andy Moran’s absence, Mickey C is one of the few forwards we have who shows well for the ball and who can be relied on to win a fair amount of the ball that’s pumped into the inside line. If he’s ruled out of the Salthill clash then this could be a real problem for us, as we simply don’t have a ready-made replacement to the Davitts man within our ranks. That said, though, any vacancies in the forwards does present a glorious opportunity to the likes of Evan Regan – who looks an exciting prospect but who’d want to be providing some tangible proof of this at this stage – and Alan Murphy, who showed a few nice touches at Croke Park the last day, to make a serious case for inclusion in the first fifteen for Salthill.
Regardless of who lines out for us in the full-forward line at Pearse Stadium, we’re likely to see a return then to the tactic that worked well for us in last year’s championship. This saw Kevin McLoughlin and Alan Dillon as the initiators of and conduit for most of our rapid attacking thrusts and it was a tactic that works best when we were dominant in the middle of the park. In this regard, Alan’s return to the fray could be doubly important but so too could be the prognosis relating to Barry Moran.
I understand there’s a good chance Barry will have recovered from the medial knee ligament tear he suffered on club duty in time to line out in Salthill. If this is the case then his ability to dominate the exchanges in the middle of the field could well prove sufficient to provide a platform for victory over the Tribesmen next month, even if our forward line includes a few lads who most likely wouldn’t be starting if James had the luxury to pick from a full deck.
A fully fit squad would, of course, be great to have facing into the championship (it certainly helped Donegal last year) but, as has been the case ever since Andy Moran’s sickening cruciate injury last August, this isn’t a position we’ve been in for some time and, by the looks of it, it’s not a position we can expect to be in any time soon either. In that sense, we’ve no choice but to get on with it and plan for the summer challenges we face – starting with the major hurdle Galway will represent next month – with the considerable talent we still have at our disposal.
PS: That Mayo News report linked above confirms that we have a challenge match against Fermanagh arranged for 4th May (i.e. the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend) up in Brewster Park, Enniskillen.