Armagh forward Ethan Rafferty on the way back as Charlie Vernon ends retirement rumours
ARMAGH full-forward Ethan Rafferty will be out of action until at least February next year meaning he looks likely to miss the Orchard County first four games of their return to Division Two.
The Grange clubman dislocated his right shoulder against Westmeath in last season’s Qualifiers and had surgery on August 2. Three months later, his recovery is going to plan but, although the fixture programme has yet to be confirmed, Rafferty has resigned himself to missing the opening exchanges of Armagh’s League campaign.
“I tore ligaments in my shoulder in a game against Sligo two years ago and I was looking at surgery then but Paul Carragher (physio) helped me to get back,” he explained.
“But he did always say that I was on borrowed time and that time came against Westmeath. At the start of the second half I was trying to tackle one of their midfielders and we tripped each other.
“I put my arm out to break my fall and the force of me coming down dislocated it. When I hit the ground there was nothing for a split second and then I realised something wasn’t right.”
He added: “The surgery went well and I’m starting to get the strength into it again although it’s a slow process and the full mobility wouldn’t be there yet. I’ll hopefully get that pre-Christmas and then focus from the turn of the year on getting the strength into it.”
After being in a sling for six weeks, Rafferty (24) has had to learn to be patient as his and is leaving nothing to chance as we works his way back to full fitness. He does a programme of mobility exercises in the mornings and running sessions in the evenings.
“It’s going to take time,” he said.
“There’s no quick fix and I haven’t got a date for when I’ll get back but I’d like to play as much of the League as possible because I want to get a few competitive games in before the Championship rolls around.
“As soon as we get the League fixtures, I want to pick a game (to get back for) and then at least I have a set target in my head. It’s going to be February or March but if I can get a specific date it gives me a goal to really go for.”
Armagh’s spread of attacking options has widened this year with the returns of Stefan Campbell and Jamie Clarke while Rian O’Neill (Crossmaglen) and Jack Grugan (Ballymacnab) are new additions to the panel. Rafferty is well aware that competition for places in the starting 15 will be fierce.
“The boys have come back in, household names likes Jamie and ‘Soup’ (Campbell), and they will be having a point of prove,” he said.
“Then there’s young boys like Jason Duffy (Cullyhanna) who had a few injury problems last year and Jack Grugan who was phenomenal for Ballymacnab. Last year, as soon as somebody put the effort in and showed they were willing to work they got a chance.
“At any stage, anybody can play so it’s going to be a tall order to get back into the team but I’m hoping I can get back there again. I hope to back up last year at some stage.”
Meanwhile, there have been reports that experienced midfielder/full-back Charlie Vernon was considering retirement but the Armagh Harps clubman, a favourite with Orchard fans, has confirmed that he will play next year and is in pre-season training with the squad.
However, his Armagh Harps team-mate, goalkeeper Paddy Morrison, will not be part of the squad. Morrison, son of former Armagh and Mayo manager John Morrison, has served as a capable deputy to Blaine Hughes but has walked away due to work commitments.