I can't go on feeling like an outcast at Down: Devlin
Down's Ulster Championship hopes have been significantly damaged as, after a raft of recent injuries, Paul Devlin has departed the panel, claiming he feels like "an outcast".
It has emerged that Caolan Mooney is awaiting results of an MRI scan, and there are fears that he may have ruptured his patellar tendon which takes a minimum of three months of recovery before resuming exercise.
Meanwhile, Kilcoo brothers Jerome (quad) and Ryan (hamstring) Johnston have suffered injuries and will have a lot to do in order to prove their fitness ahead of the clash with Armagh in Newry on June 4.
And to worsen matters, Devlin - a mainstay of the team under James McCartan and Jim McCorry - has left Eamonn Burns' squad, citing his frustration with a lack of game time.
The 26-year-old Kilcoo man was only used as a late substitute in the league against Galway, Derry and Meath.
After Kilcoo's defeat to Slaughtneil in the Ulster Club final last November, Devlin took a fortnight off before returning to county training.
"I felt I needed to be back into county training to win a position for the National League. But I don't know, maybe they are seeing things I am not seeing, or what I am feeling," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I spoke to Eamonn a few times and he said that I just needed to take my chance when I got it.
"But in three months of football, I played only 35 minutes all in."
Having joined the panel as a teenager in 2010, Devlin was not prepared to sit and bide his time.
"At the end of the day, it is football. I want to be playing and if you are not getting football you are obviously not happy," he explained.
"Sometimes, the way football goes, you can't dwell on it too much. You just have to take a step back and see where you can get the best out of yourself.
"If you are not enjoying it, if you are not getting game time, you are safer going back to your club where you can get football and start enjoying the game."
He admits that the lack of game time left him feeling insecure about his capabilities.
"It's probably more frustration with myself. I was starting to doubt my ability and thinking, 'why can I not break into the team?'" he said.
"There were times when I was asking myself that. To be honest, I would rather let my football do the talking than approaching people about giving me a chance.
"This is my policy. I wouldn't want to approach people and say, 'you should be starting me'. I would be of the mentality of letting my football do the talking and leave actual talking to other people."
Last Sunday, Kilcoo's league opener against Castlewellan doubled up as last year's league final. Given how little football he had played up until that point, Kilcoo manager Paul McIver did not start Devlin, copper-fastening his decision that he is doing the right thing in the short-term.
And he believes that he will once more play for Down.
"I love putting on the Down jersey, but for the last year and the year before, I was one of the regular starters. And to be made like an outcast, I just felt that it was time to take a break from the county panel," he added.
"I have sat on the bench long enough these past couple of months and I just want to enjoy my football and play with a smile instead of experiencing frustration."
Meanwhile, Fermanagh manager Pete McGrath has said Eoin McManus and Ruairi Corrigan are all but out of the Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan on May 20.