Joe Kernan: Top players missed but every cloud has a silver lining
It would seem that fate has intervened to deprive some of Ulster’s most celebrated players from participating in the first phase of the senior football championship — at least.
The litany of injuries makes grim reading and encompasses four captains who are ruled out of their teams’ opening game.
Donegal skipper Michael Murphy sat out last Sunday’s win over Cavan but hopes to get some game time in the quarter-final tie against Derry on June 16.
Next Sunday, Monaghan captain Darren Hughes will be conspicuous by his absence when his side confront Antrim, with complications following a dead leg injury keeping him sidelined.
Then on Sunday week, Down and Fermanagh will both be without this year’s first-choice captains when they lock horns at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Benny Coulter will know tomorrow if he is to play any part in the Ulster series when he receives the detailed results of the latest scan on his serious ankle injury while Erne leader Ryan McCluskey received a serious facial injury in training that could hardly have come at a more inopportune time.
With Ronan Clarke (Armagh), Dan Gordon (Down), Kyle Coney (Tyrone) and Martin Johnston (Antrim) among the other high-profile players set to miss their teams’ opening game, it can be clearly seen that a raft of talent will be left on the sideline.
Nonetheless although all managers understandably would wish to have their first-choice fifteen available to them, they will now have the opportunity to blood new players in the Championship.
That will be a big ask of these players and they will need all the support they can get if they are to make an impact in what is a particularly punishing environment.
Although there is the ‘safety net’ of the Qualifiers, every team wants to make progress via the direct route, injuries or no injuries.
Fans will certainly rue the absence of the better-known names yet if their team triumphs there won’t be one word of compliant — just satisfaction that the squad is actually stronger than was thought!