Monaghan's Kieran Hughes on the comeback trail
MONAGHAN manager Malachy O’Rourke is hopeful that Kieran Hughes could return to the training pitch before the end of March.
The versatile Scotstown player has missed the Farney county’s first three League games – and is likely to miss the remaining four – as he deals with a hamstring issue that has been hampering his participation since last summer.
Hughes started the Ulster Championship matches against Tyrone and Fermanagh last year but missed the Qualifier clashes with Waterford and Leitrim. He did make appearances against Laois, Kildare, Kerry and also in Monaghan’s second meeting with the Red Hands, but they were all cameos off the bench.
“Kieran has a hamstring problem and it’s one that has been lingering since last year when he missed a lot of the Championship,” said O’Rourke.
“He sort of played through the League campaign with it but missed some action after that.
“He has had treatment on it and he’s now doing a block of work with the physios to see if we can get it sorted once and for all.
“It’s probably another three or four weeks before he’ll be able to play full contact games and that there.
“It’s just a matter of being patient with him and there’s no point rushing him back and him having to go through the whole thing again.”
Hughes, of course, will miss tomorrow night’s clash with Tyrone at Healy Park, and O’Rourke could be without a number of other key players too.
Certain to miss out is the versatile Fintan Kelly, who had to be replaced in the seventh minute of their 0-11 to 1-9 loss to Galway in Inniskeen last time out.
“Fintan is definitely out,” O’Rourke confirmed. “He won’t play.
“We’ve picked up a few injuries. Conor Boyle went off (v Roscommon) so he’ll probably be out.
“Kieran Duffy went off the last day against Galway so he is another one that will be doubtful.
“It’s just tough at this time of the year with the games coming thick and fast.”
O’Rourke said that the requirement to name a squad list of 26 players ahead of a Thursday deadline also made it difficult to rule players in or out.
“The other problem is that we have to name the panel early in the week so you just have to take a chance that players will be ready or won’t be ready.
“That can really be tricky but we just have to see how we are and plan accordingly.”
Monaghan go into tomorrow’s match a point above the relegation zone, having won just once in their opening three games, the round one victory over Dublin.
Tyrone sit a point further back and their manager Mickey Harte told The Irish News earlier this week that they need to start making their home form count having previously lost heavily to Mayo.
“It was always going to be a massive game, and always is a massive game between us and Monaghan anyway, but I think it takes on a new significance now,” said Harte.