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Joe Kernan: Injuries always unwanted but more so now

There is one word that every manager in the country irrespective of at which level he might operate dreads and that word is injuries.

There is never a ‘good’ time of the year for a player to be injured but, let’s be honest, there are periods when the loss of a player or players can seriously impact on a club or county team’s overall welfare.

And right now we find ourselves at what is to my mind one of the most crucial stages of the season. With all managers striving to put the finishing touches to their squads for the forthcoming Championship, the last thing they want to hear of is a player being ruled out through injury.

When Galway beat Tyrone last Sunday in the National Football League the result obviously afforded me some degree of satisfaction.

But looking at the bigger picture there was an even more encouraging feature of the contest. Even though he inflicted some pain on us in the second half it was great to see Sean Cavanagh back in action for the Red Hands following his long lay-off and it was heartening too to note that Ryan Mellon is back in the frame after he too underwent surgery.

Philip Jordan could be back in Tyrone’s colours soon and Brian Dooher is building up his fitness levels all the time which means that in the near future Mickey Harte could have a full hand from which to choose although he is obviously very keen to have Stephen O’Neill back on board.

I don’t like to hear of any player no matter what county he may represent being sidelined for a long spell through injury. We have more than our share of long-term injuries in Galway at present with the absence of Michael Meehan, Padraig Joyce and Seanie Armstrong being particularly felt.

Then you look at the absence of Ronan Clarke, Kevin Dyas and Stephen Kernan from the Armagh side, the months of rehabilitation that Down’s Liam Doyle has been undertaking and the frustration that Antrim’s Michael Magill is currently enduring because of a double injury after making such an impact since being brought into the side by manager Liam Bradley. Fermanagh manager Malachy O’Rourke and Cavan boss Tommy Carr are others who have cause for regret that key players are missing right now with the Ernesiders deprived of the hugely talented Barry Owens and the Breffni side missing the brilliant Seanie Johnston.

Only this week Dublin’s Paul Griffen has been sidelined for months with a cruciate ligament problem while Shane O’Rourke, who had been finding his feet in the Meath side, has had his career seriously disrupted by injury.

Nothing upsets or worries players more than injuries. County players in particular spend countless hours conditioning and toning their bodies for the rigours of their sport and injuries, even those that are not particularly serious, can upset their fitness schedules and indeed impact on their playing careers.

Managers always want to have a full hand from which to pick. Some are more fortunate than others and can occasionally enjoy the luxury of naming unchanged sides for two or three games but let’s face it this is something of a rarity in inter-county gaelic football.

That’s why there is so much heavy emphasis on the squad system. There may be only 15

players in any team’s starting line-up but every manager will quickly remind you that it is a 20-man game.

And nowhere is this philosophy more applicable than in the Championship which means that over the next few weeks managers will be keeping their fingers crossed that a clean bill of health will pertain in their counties.

l YESTERDAY I attended the funeral of former Down star Patsy O’Hagan in Claregalway, Co Galway where this former All Ireland winner (1960 and ’61) had been living for many years. Along with his sons he had been a pillar of the Claregalway club and his grandson Danny Cummings is a member of my current Galway squad.

Many Down officials and former and past players were at the funeral and the attendance reflected the esteem in which Patsy, a versatile player who was Down through and through, was held.

He was among that elite band of players who blazed a successful trail in the All Ireland series and he will forever be numbered among the Mourne county’s immortals.

I recall Down’s feats in the early 60s and I know that they now have the capacity to go on to more glory — nothing would have pleased Patsy more than to see this achieved.

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