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Injury woes go on for Johnston as he's ruled out of Slaughtneil clash

 

By John Campbell

Kilcoo have been dealt a major blow ahead of Sunday's Ulster Club football championship preliminary round tie against Slaughtneil now that playmaker Ryan Johnston has been ruled out with a metatarsal injury.

Johnston, who has suffered more than his fair share of injuries in his career, sustained the damage during the Down final win over Burren which gave them their sixth county title on the trot.

Hugely influential in the middle third of the pitch in particular, and unselfish in his distribution, Johnston's role in Kilcoo's strategy has had much to do with their ongoing progress.

Last year, along with his brother Jerome, he was an absentee from the Kilcoo and Down sides from March until September as they both recovered from surgery to dislocated shoulders.

The duo have been in great form for both Kilcoo and Down this year and it was Jerome's last-gasp point in the Mourne county's final Allianz League game against Cork that earned their side the draw which helped to keep them in Division Two.

Ryan's absence is certain to be keenly felt by a Kilcoo side which lost to Slaughtneil in last year's Ulster Club championship final (0-12 to 0-9).

Paul Devlin, though, is fit and raring to go against the reigning Ulster champions after shipping a heavy blow to the face from Burren's Conaill McGovern in the Down decider for which he incurred a red card.

Meanwhile, there is still considerable speculation surrounding new appointees to positions in Mickey Harte's Tyrone backroom team.

It is understood that Peter Donnelly, recruited from Cavan as strength and conditioning coach, and Gavin Devlin, who has been No.2 to Harte for five years, may be about to depart.

While triple All-Ireland winner Stephen O'Neill is being mentioned in some quarters as a possible successor to Devlin in Tyrone, manager Harte is keeping his cards close to his chest.

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