The Mayo News have confirmed the rumours doing the rounds since Friday night about David Clarke: he tore a groin muscle early on in that challenge game against Louth and so is virtually certain to miss our Connacht semi-final with Roscommon on Saturday week. If this is the case (and, from the sounds of it, it seems all but certain that it is), then Ballinrobe’s Kenneth O’Malley – whose sole championship appearance to date for the county occurred on that unhappy day for us in Salthill back in 2007 – will be between the sticks for us at McHale Park on June 20th.
Kenneth’s a good ‘keeper and the way that he’s managed to regain full fitness and now reclaim a place on the county team is little short of amazing, given the truly horrific injury he sustained towards the end of 2007. Like Clarke he’s a big lad and he has a monstrous kickout as well, which is no bad thing for a goalie to have in his armoury.
Clarkie’s absence from the team will, however, still be felt keenly on Sunday week. He’s a guy who sometimes attracts a bit of stick from Mayo supporters, more often than not about the quality and variety (or lack thereof) of his kickouts. For my money, though, the Ballina man is one of our unsung heroes and he’s one of the main reasons why we haven’t conceded a goal in a competitive match since our second league outing this year, which was against Donegal back in February when we shipped two goals to them in the first half (the picture above was the one we conceded against Derry two weeks before then).
I’ve lost count of the number of times Clarke has been left exposed in one-on-one situations in the recent past (I recall two such occurrences alone in last year’s Connacht semi-final against Sligo and there have plenty more since then) and the vast majority of times that this has happened he’s saved our bacon. Kenneth’s a good replacement, make no mistake, but we could certainly have done without losing an experienced campaigner like Clarke for a match of this importance.