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Down's Mark Poland is on the mend after eye accident

By Declan Bogue

Published 28/04/2015

Freak injury: Mark Poland was hit in the face by a stray football as he was warming up for Down
Freak injury: Mark Poland was hit in the face by a stray football as he was warming up for Down

Down received good news last night as former captain Mark Poland was discharged from hospital after being struck in the face by a football at full force during the warm-up for the Mournemen's Division Two league final defeat against Roscommon.

Poland was immediately withdrawn from the team by Down's medical staff and brought to the Mater Hospital, where his eye, which was bleeding, was treated.

He told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday: "They said there was blood in the iris.

"There is no damage to the back of the eye. I think that's what they were worried about. I have to take drops for it that disperses the blood but that puts pressure on the scar tissue around the eye and that can be dangerous."

Poland is due to attend the Royal Hospital tomorrow for a further check-up.

He recounted that he had been standing on the edge of the 'D' about to practice a free-kick when he was hit by the ball, and that he tried to convince the Down doctor he was alright to play, but was nevertheless taken away.

His team-mate Caolan Mooney caught a glimpse of the incident.

"I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I saw someone drop and I turned round to see 'Polie' down. Nobody knew what happened," said the former Collingwood AFL player after the match.

"It was one of those things, the keeper mis-kicked the ball."

Like almost everyone else in the stadium on Sunday, Mooney missed Brendan McArdle's first yellow card, stating: "I don't want to say too much, but Maurice Deegan (the referee) must have had blurred vision and saw two yellow cards when he pulled the first one out."

Mooney was not too perturbed by the final result, given Down had to play the majority of the game a man down.

"I know the scoreline doesn't reflect it but I thought we put in a decent performance," the 22-year-old Rostrevor man said.

"Roscommon are a quality team and they'll be pushing for a Connacht title this year so you can't be too disappointed because they are a very talented side.

"When you concede a goal your mentality changes, your head just sinks. But we played until the final whistle. We could have lost the head and played with no discipline."

In his first season back from Aussie Rules, he admits his body has had to re-adjust to the demands of Gaelic football.

For the first half he was played at wing-forward, but then moved inside for the second half.

He shows an impressive articulation of what his role in the team could be when assessing the switches.

"There is a lot of space in Croke Park to exploit when you go inside. I would prefer to be out around the middle, my attributes are better out there with my jump, my speed and my courage to go in for a break ball," he explained.

"I think that's where I would be best suited to, just coming in with my speed and supporting the full-forward line."

While rating his fitness as 85%, he noted Down's forthcoming game away to Derry in the Ulster Championship. He said: "I'll just build it up. I want to be at my pinnacle come June 7 and be ready to explode then. I'm looking forward to the next five weeks of hard work.

"Either at home or away, when you are playing with this team there is no fear amongst anyone.

"We are happy with the 15 we put out compared to any other 15 and we feel we can do a job."

Although the league final ended in defeat, Mooney insists that their primary objective of promotion was all that mattered.

"If you are playing in Division One, you are playing against the pinnacle of Gaelic football. If you are playing against the best you are only going to improve yourself," he concluded.

Belfast Telegraph

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