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Joe Kernan: Fingers crossed for a season free from injuries

Nothing is calculated to disturb managers more than long-term injuries to key players.

Their absence can upset the rhythm of a team, affect morale and retard progress.

Over the course of recent seasons, an particularly in the last two years, county bosses in Ulster in particular have suffered rather more heavily in this respect than their counterparts in the other provinces.

Scarcely a county has avoided the dreaded the long-term injury virus.

Down undoubtedly have suffered because of the loss of their inspirational skipper Ambrose Rogers for so long, Ronan Clarke’s absence from the Armagh attack for many months now remains a huge worry, the ill-luck sustained by the Bradley brothers Eoin and Paddy impacted on Derry’s chances of real progress last year and Stephen O’Neill’s lengthy omissions from the Tyrone line-up have been acutely felt.

These are all players who bring something special to the table and inter-county football is invariably the poorer when they are unavailable.

Few players indeed battled as many injuries as ex-Tyrone captain Brian Dooher. Such was his influence with the side and his qualities of leadership that manager Mickey Harte described him as “irreplaceable”.

It is easy to see why of course. Like Rogers, Clarke, the Bradleys and others of this ilk, he brings special qualities into play for the good of the team.

It would be hope that in 2012 players at all levels and not just those in the national spotlight will be able to avoid the kind of injuries which mean stays in hospital, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation all of which normally takes several months.

Last year Down were without Declan Rooney and Conor Garvey for a spell, Antrim were denied the services of C J McGourty, Fermanagh missed the dynamic Tommy McElroy and Monaghan’s John Paul Mone was actually forced into retirement because of injury complications.

This is not a scenario which we want to see replicated this term. Indeed, a healthy New Year is my fervent wish for all players.

Belfast Telegraph