Here is a shortlist of famous footballers with one thing in common: David Moran (Kerry), Cillian O’Connor (Mayo), James McCarthy and Con O’Callaghan (Dublin), Ronan McNamee (Tyrone), Neil McGee and Jamie Brennan (Donegal) ).
At their peak, even without a recognized goalkeeper, they would make for a great seven-sided team.
Now, through no fault of their own, they were all flawed in action: four innings, and none of them played a single minute of the tournament.
Some are being missed more than others.
The spectacular collapse in Dublin’s fortunes prompted endless weeks for McCarthy and O’Callaghan’s return. Tyrone probably won’t be on the verge of a relegation battle if their number one-choice full-back is there to push through the obstacles.
In the opposite direction, Kerry and Mayo stormed to the top of Group 1 of the Allianz League Division, despite the absence of a central defender (Moran) and another all-time record scorer (O’Connor).
However, for all the importance attached to NFL combat, all eight of the top flight managers have had an eye for championship training. Even more so with Dublin’s swift return, they will consider this year’s pursuit of Sam Maguire as their most public yet. A race to which they belong.
But the focus of those ambitions will be on getting all their key people back to health and firing when it matters and, for the majority of the contenders, their first provincial outing. They will take place in April. The clock is ticking.
With only three rounds remaining on consecutive weekends, that leaves the managers facing a delicate balancing act.
Do I give ‘Player A’ 20 minutes now, or is that too much of a risk? Should I be cautious, when that could mean throwing him straight into the summer cauldron without any pre-game time?
“Obviously, your medical team today has a huge part in this, because the managers want them to play but you don’t want them to collapse again, so you have to pay attention to what’s going on. what’s being said,” said John O’Mahony, former boss of Mayo, Galway and Leitrim.
“You have to get them back to fitness first – medically fit – and then you have to get them fit for football.
“The manager worries a little bit about the fitness aspect of football, so I assume the manager of all the people you talked about would like to see them play the last two rounds of the tournament, if possible. Especially with the way the calendar is now, and they’re going straight to the championship.
“They’ll do rehab all the time, that’s important, but you have to adjust their fitness level accordingly and then it’s easy to come back. It’s very difficult to get them into a championship if they don’t play. nothing really except A and B Games.”
Much will depend on the trust built between players and managers. O’Mahony made a comeback when Galway’s amulet Ja Fallon tore his anterior cruciate ligament in June 2000, missing the rest of that year’s championship – and most of the tournaments that followed. .
With such an experienced player, he recalled, there was no need to push him. Instead it’s a reassuring case: “Get ready for summer and we know what you can do.”
The 1998 Player of the Year came back from the bench in the final loss of the 2001 tournament to Mayo and, for all the roller coaster nature of Galway’s next SFC campaign, Fallon won. his second All-Ireland medal that September.
It remains to be seen how many of the following comebacks in the last three rounds, but winning them right in the summer should be the ultimate goal.
DAVID MORAN (Kerry)
Suffered a nasty hip flexor injury while on club duty with Kerins O’Rahillys last December, in the opening minutes of their Kerry SFC final loss to Austin Stacks.
After the McGrath Cup final in January, Jack O’Connor predicted that we might not see him until March. After Kerry’s last outing in Monaghan, O’Connor said Moran, Gavin White and Joe O’Connor are all “making very good progress, so they could see some action in the final part of the tournament. .”
Good news then, even if the bigger question is whether their talisman, 34 in June, still has a full 70 minutes of summer pace in his feet.
CILLIAN O’CONNOR (Mayo)
Maybe O’Connor made all the difference to Tyrone last September, but because of Achilles’ brutal injury to Clare in June? Season-ending surgery followed, but there have been mixed signals about a potential return date.
Earlier in the year, there were rumors of a possible return within five – taking place this Saturday night in Tralee. But after Mayo’s win over Armagh, James Horan warned that “he still has a few weeks to go.”
Stay tuned for Mayo’s game day 26, which will take place today, just in case. But while Tommy Conroy’s ACL injury has increased locals’ appetite for O’Connor’s know-how, leadership and prolific stats, O’Mahony insists: “He’s is a different kind of player and Mayo will miss Tommy Conroy, no matter what.”
JAMES McCARTHY, SON O’CALLAGHAN (Dublin)
McCarthy has started for Dublin this year – but it was in the O’Byrne Cup, against Longford, and the eight-time All-Ireland champion picked up an injury before their game started against Armagh.
Along with O’Callaghan, McCarthy was named on the ‘fake team’ match show for the second round against Kerry… but first seen on his field as Ballymun Kickhams against Na Fianna last weekend, prompting speculation he could be thrown into a Healy Park Cauldron for his must-win Dublin date with Tyrone on Sunday.
It looks like O’Callaghan’s return is a few weeks away, having injured his ankle in a test match in January against Roscommon.
Further injuries to Eoin Murchan, Cormac Costello (who played for his club Whitehall Colmcille last weekend) and Paddy Small have added to the tough challenge facing Dessie Farrell – but in the absence of pieces jigsaw puzzle, nothing bigger than ‘Maccer’ and Con.
RONAN McNAMEE (Tyrone)
The exact nature of McNamee’s injury has never been made clear but, following Tyrone’s third-round win over Kildare, Brian Dooher said: “Hopefully we’ll see Ronan practice soon. It’s a long-term injury. We expect that he will integrate back into training in the next week or two, so you will talk three or four weeks before seeing him again. ”
With that timeline, the 2019 All-Star full-back is unlikely to have a rematch with Dubs. His last Red Hand appearance was in the all-Ireland final against Mayo.
NEIL McGEE, JAMIE BRENNAN (Donegal)
Most of the ‘casualty talk’ in Donegal has focused on two Michaels, Murphy and Langan, but at least they played this spring. Neil McGee hasn’t appeared since his most recent back injury resulted in him being fielded at Enniskillen against Tyrone last July.
Donegal’s all-time appearance record holder was once one of the game’s great full-backs but he is now 36, questioning whether he can return as a starter .
But he was a late addition to Donegal’s 26-day game against Tyrone 12 days ago; He didn’t come, but he seemed to be very close.
While McGee may be capable of taking on Monaghan this Sunday, Jamie Brennan’s return looks set to be further away after the attacker suffered further knee problems during the McKenna Cup mission in January.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/missing-in-action-the-gaelic-football-stars-yet-to-play-a-minute-of-2022-league-action-41429436.html Missing in action: Gaelic football stars have yet to play a minute of a match at the 2022 tournament