Tyrone manager Mickey Harte last night confirmed that 2008 footballer of the year Sean Cavanagh has been ruled for the rest of the season.
The Moy man suffered serious damage to his shoulder in a club game on Sunday afternoon when he detached a tendon which will require surgery and, at the Tyrone press night in Cookstown, Harte confirmed that he will play no further part in 2012.
“It’s the same style of injury that he had last year only on the other shoulder so it’s a season ending injury and it’s a major blow for Sean himself as well as obviously the team,” said Harte.
“The club season has taken its toll on our players with a lot of injuries and niggles after every round of the league. Losing Sean is a big setback for us but it’s hard to get the balance as you need players playing club football.”
On the plus side of things team captain Stephen O’Neill and midfielder Mickey Murphy both returned from injury for their clubs in weekend games and should be okay for the eagerly awaited showdown with Armagh at the Athletic Grounds.
Meanwhile, Eoin Donnelly has gone from the fringes as an unknown product in midfield to being a key man for Fermanagh and is poised to make his Ulster Championship debut against Down on Sunday fortified by a string of consistent players and buoyed by the challenge of confronting two of the most high-profile central area operators in Ambrose Rogers and Kalum King.
Donnelly’s ability to snap up vital first-phase possession, his relentless running and willingness to put in crucial tackles all over the park have quickly honed his reputation as a player imbued with the necessary credentials to succeed in the intense heat of Championship warfare.
But the 24-year-old physiotherapist knows that while Fermanagh have secured their place in Division Three, their progress will be measured on the strength of their Championship performances.
“Everyone is saying that the Ulster Championship is the real test for us and you can’t argue with that,” he said.
“Since the draw was made we have been focused on this game against Down.
“We have home advantage and I think we have gained in confidence — these have to be two plus-factors going into a match like this.”
In the Division Four final against Wicklow, Donnelly cracked in a superb goal but that was not enough to prevent Fermanagh from losing the game.
Yet that defeat underlined to the Ernesiders that they had work to do on the training ground ahead of their campaign in the Championship.
“We knuckled down again and the mood is great for Sunday’s game. Peter Canavan will have us well fired up — there’s not much about championship football that he does not know,” said Donnelly.
His arrival in the Fermanagh side earlier this year could hardly have been more opportune as Martin McGrath, James Sherry and Shane Lyons, all capable midfield practitioners, were out of the picture then because of injury.
The manner in which Donnelly initially seized his chance impressed Canavan and his management team to such an extent that he was retained for the entire league programme and was arguably Fermanagh’s most consistent player in the competition.
And no doubt Donnelly will step up to the mark on Sunday.