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GAA bosses hail their walking wounded

By John Campbell

No fewer than four Ulster managers have hailed the bravery of players who have been prepared to play through the pain barrier in order to bolster their teams’ hopes of progress in the Allianz Football League.

John Brennan (Derry), James McCartan (Down), Mickey Harte (Tyrone) and Liam Bradley (Antrim) have been effusive in lauding the efforts of what Brennan describes as “the walking wounded” as the league builds to what will be a nail-biting climax this weekend.

Brennan, never one to mince his words, insists that the recent contribution of Kevin McCloy, Dermot McBride and captain Barry McGoldrick in particular has been crucial in bolstering Derry’s bid to gain promotion to Division One.

“These three players have defied injuries to play their part — in the case of Kevin McCloy he has soldiered on while battling against injuries to both his ankle and his knee,” says Brennan.

“I cannot speak highly enough about players like these. They have shown themselves to be exceptional people.”

And Down boss McCartan believes that his goalkeeper Brendan McVeigh showed exceptional spirit in turning out against Dublin last Saturday having been suffering from a knee injury.

McVeigh picked up yet another knee knock in that game and had to be replaced by Declan Alder who will get the nod for Sunday’s must-win clash with Kerry in Killarney.

“Brendan had made a good recovery and now he’s out again but he is so committed to the cause that he very frustrated to be missing out again,” says McCartan.

“He shows great enthusiasm and now we must hope that he will be ready to face Armagh in the Ulster Championship at the end of next month.”

Mickey Harte’s relief at seeing what he has described as his “indispensable” skipper Brian Dooher and long-serving wing-back Philip Jordan return to the Tyrone squad has been replaced by a sense of frustration now that a question mark appears to hover over the latter’s continued involvement with the side.

Harte has been quick to defuse such speculation by declaring: “There is definitely no story to Philip Jordan. That is the bottom line.”

Last year Jordan, an accountant, was Tyrone’s most consistent player and played a huge part in their Ulster final triumph.

The Red Hands expect to have both Dooher and Jordan on the bench for Sunday’s important game against Laois in which victory could thrust Harte’s side into Division One.

Meanwhile, Antrim manager Liam Bradley is deprived of several experienced players for Sunday’s confrontation with Derry yet he acknowledges that some of them have shown considerable courage and character to date in the league.

“We have players like Kevin Niblock, Sean Burke, Justin Crozier and others who have defied injuries but we need to focus on getting everyone right for the Championship,” says Bradley.

“Having said that we also need a win against Derry on Sunday if we are to have any chance of avoiding the drop back into Division Three.”

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