In The Irish News - Feb 17 1998: Gregory O'Kane among Dunloy hurlers facing fitness battle
GREGORY O'Kane, Dunloy's ace marksman, is one of five players battling to be fully fit for next month's AIB All-Ireland club hurling semi-final replay with Sarsfields.
O'Kane damaged a calf muscle during the frantic final minutes of Sunday's fabulous seven-goal thriller in Mullingar. A rugby-style tackle by rival centre half-back Michael Ward left the Ulster champion's star struggling to finish the game.
O'Kane was immediately treated by Dunloy's medical personnel afterwards, having battled on to convert two late frees to make sure of their replay chance. Nigel Elliott, their industrious wing half-forward, had to retire in the 59th minute with a knee ligament injury.
Sarsfields are hoping Joe Cooney and the McGrath's, Michael and Joe, can improve fitness levels for what is unquestionably an eagerly-awaited sequel.
A tremendous contest at Cusack Park produced four Dunloy goals, three for Galway's former double AllIreland winners, and 25 points over the roller-coaster course of almost 63 minutes duration.
Seamus Elliott, Dunloy's coach, said that O'Kane appeared to have damaged a muscle behind his knee or upper calf after Ward's challenge – a fierce tackle which merited dismissal.
“It is a concern,” said Elliott,
“Gregory is having treatment for the injury and hopefully it is nothing too serious.
“It will probably be a fortnight until the replay and he should be fine, and we would hope Nigel's injury will clear up for the game also.”
DUNGIVEN'S McKeever brothers and midfielder Ronan McCloskey will play through the pain barrier for the Derry champions in Sunday's AIB All-Ireland Club semi-final against Corofin.
Club captain Emmett McKeever has a back problem, Kieran is troubled by a long-standing knee injury, while McCloskey has a broken toe but the ailments won't prevent the trio from lining out against the Connacht representatives.
Dungiven goalkeeper Owen McCloskey also has a back strain but, like the others, his participation in Sunday's Ballyshannon clash is not in question. Manager Eugene Kelly's main selection decision appears to be whether to recall Barry Kelly to the half-forward line.
Ryan Murphy and the player-manager himself appear to be the two men most under pressure from Kelly. Brian Kealey and defender Raymond Tracey, who has looked especially sharp in recent challenge games, are also pushing hard for recalls but the expectation is that both will have to be content with places on the bench.
After playing several challenge games over the past two months and also training thrice weekly, team manager Kelly allowed his players a weekend off in advance of the All-Ireland semi-final.
Tomorrow's evening's training session under the gaze of trainer Richard Ferris and Bellaghy man Danny Quinn who has also been helping out the St Canice club's All-Ireland bid in recent months, will be Dungiven's sole workout this week.
Former Derry goalkeeper John Somers is also part of the Dungiven backroom team. Corofin are sweating on the fitness of full-back Jason Killeen who missed the Connacht final win over Allen Gaels in December when veteran corner-back Ollie Burke was handed the number three jersey.
If Killeen is declared fit, 38- year-old Burke will most likely revert to his regular role with David Comer dropping out from the 15 which defeated the Leitrim champions 2-10 to 0-11.
Goalkeeper Martin McNamara also missed the Connacht decider but is expected to return for Sunday's game which will mean demotion for his deputy Glen Comer.
MATCHES in the McKenna Cup tournament, which is expected to start on March 8, will have two referees.
At a specially convened meeting in Monaghan last night, Ulster's football managers were debriefed on the new rules and told how they will be implemented in this year's competition. The news signals a change of heart from Croke Park as the original intention was that an additional referee would only feature in the O'Byrne Cup and FBD Connacht League.
But following feedback from teams, referees and officials in the other three provinces, the National Football Committee has recommended that two referees be employed in the McKenna Cup in addition to the concluding stages of the three other provincial competitions.
Croke Park's coaching and development officer Pat Daly said the introduction of the experimental rules over the past six weeks had proved “a very interesting exercise”. Opinions on the introduction of a second referee have been varied.
Louth manager Paddy Clarke last week said he had noticed occasions when the two referees, who are responsible for one half of the field each, had interpreted rules in differing fashions during O'Byrne Cup games.
BELFAST flyweight Damaen Kelly is set for a step up in opposition when he faces a former British title challenger at the York Hall, Bethnal Green on March 17. Sudbury fighter Mark Reynolds has been lined up by Kelly's manager Frank Maloney for the Belfast buzzsaw's fifth pro fight.
“I'm looking forward to it to get me well up the ratings,” said Kelly last night.
“I'm told the fight is being made over eight threes (minutes rounds) which suits me fine. I've trained hard for just this and it's a good follow on coming right after my fight in London. This will put me well up there and get me recognised.”