Armagh defender Brendan Donaghy targeting Cavan return
BRENDAN Donaghy is targeting an Ulster Championship return against Cavan on May 29 after making significant strides from a broken bone in his foot.
The experienced Clonmore defender is back running and expects to be in full training over the next week. Donaghy’s potential availability will further boost Armagh’s prospects with Ciaran McKeever also expected to be recovered from injury.
Donaghy, who made only one NFL start against Galway this season, suffered the foot injury a week before the Orchard county’s Division Two game against Tyrone but managed to avoid surgery.
“I’m not actually sure if I clipped somebody’s heel or somebody stood on it but it happened in training,” Donaghy explained.
“I tried to play on and after about 20 minutes or so I knew something wasn’t right… I avoided an operation and stayed off my foot as much as I could.”
An intense rehab programme involving bike work and aqua jogging means that it shouldn’t take Donaghy long to get back up to full fitness.
“I’m back out running on the pitch and hopefully in a week or so I should be back in full training. I will push as hard as I can to be available for the Cavan match. If I make it, I make it; if I don’t I’ll encourage the rest of the boys to try and get over the line.”
Plagued by knee tendinitis and an Achilles problem, Donaghy added: “The injuries can be frustrating at times but you always have something to look forward to and you’re always building towards something.
“I’ll be running around with bubble-wrap over the next few weeks!”
Donaghy watched on with anguish as Armagh suffered relegation to Division Three despite beating Derry on the last League game of the year and finishing on six points.
But their shock 17-point defeat to newly-promoted Cavan earlier in the campaign proved their downfall.
Even though he didn’t feature in that humiliating defeat on March 5, Donaghy regards the night as one of the “lowest points” in his Armagh career.
“In the first 10 or 15 minutes we’d taken a two-point lead and then we conceded a goal. I’m not sure if our heads dropped a wee bit because of that.
“It was definitely a low point for me with Armagh. But the good thing about the League, you get a chance to redeem yourself later on and I’m sure a lot of the lads will be looking towards that game [on May 29].
“We just have to focus on our own performance and we’ll see where it takes us.”
He added: “I thought we should have got a bit more out of some games, particularly the Laois game. The results haven’t really been kind to us. To me, we’re far from being a Division Three team.
“The better results we had were against teams in the top half of the table. I think things are starting to click; the boys are starting to play well.”
Donaghy name-checked Rory Grugan and his fine form in the Armagh forward line and has been impressed by Stefan Campbell, Collie Watters and Ciaron O’Hanlon in attack.
“You look at the likes of Rory Grugan who’s been producing the goods. He’s an excellent footballer. The likes of Collie Watters has really stood up to it, Stefan [Campbell] has been the main man and has been doing well all season...
“So it’s good those players are pushing it on especially without the likes of Ciaran McKeever. Ciaran would always be a leader but other boys have stepped up to it in his absence.”
Veteran defender Andy Mallon also finished the NFL campaign strongly, with Donaghy quipping: “Andy’s an unbelievable talent. I could be doing pre-season for about six months and Andy could come back from doing nothing and still be beating me. Andy’s one of those annoying people. You look at what group he’s in and you go to a different one!”
Consistency is the key for Armagh, Donaghy insists, ahead of their trip to Kingspan Breffni Park.
“This particular group of players has shown glimpses, but it’s okay doing something great for five minutes but it’s the next five minutes and the five minutes after that. The talent is definitely there and there’s undeniable quality, so hopefully we get to show it.”