Neil McManus could return for Antrim despite Carlow injury horror
NEIL McManus could line out for Antrim in next Sunday's crucial tie with Laois despite needing six stitches in the groin injury he suffered in Saturday's win over Carlow.
The Cushendall clubman scored 1-9 against the Barrowsiders at Corrigan Park to send Antrim to the top of the Joe McDonagh Cup table but the win came at a high price and, although McManus might make a brave return to action on Sunday, Joe Maskey (broken metarsal), Michael Armstrong (broken elbow) both suffered season-ending injuries.
Eoghan Campbell (suspended) will also miss the Laois game at Dunloy meaning that Aaron Graffin, Eddie McCloskey, Conor Carson and Dan McCloskey all come into contention to start against the O'Moore men who have already lost to Westmeath and Kerry.
“We would hope, I'm sure everybody would hope, that Neil will be able to play,” said Antrim joint-manager Dominic ‘Woody' McKinley.
“We don't know at this stage, but if he's anywhere near it I know he will play because we have put ourselves into a position now to make the final.”
McManus was struck off the ball on Saturday and McKinley says the actions of Carlow's Richard Coady had no place on the hurling field.
“It wasn't good – if it had happened in the middle of the field and everybody had seen it there could have been trouble,” he said.
“Players would not have stood and let that happen. It wasn't good, it could be alright this week, but he has six stitches and I'm just glad it wasn't more serious because it could have been a change of life for the man. It should never happen on a hurling field.”
McManus may not be back for Sunday, but he will return in this campaign. However, neither Maskey nor Armstrong, who had his elbow broken in two places from a crude chop with the heel of a Carlow hurl, will play again this season.
“That was a dreadful thing to happen,” said McKinley.
“It shouldn't have happened – a couple of their players were taking cheap shots at him and there's no place for it.”
Maskey had been having another terrific game when he pulled up after an hour at Corrigan Park.
“Joe has been one of our most promising players this year,” said McKinley.
“At this stage, he could hurl at wing half-back for any county in Ireland. There's been a massive improvement in him since he came into the panel about 18 months ago.
“You wouldn't have given tuppence for him, but he's done his conditioning and fitness work and he'd be up there with our best players this year.”
The loss of Maskey, Armstrong, Campbell and possibly McManus followed news last week that Ciaran Clarke had withdrawn from the panel due to work commitments. But McKinley is confident that the events at Corrigan Park will bind his players together and drive them on to success.
“We are in a position now where we're out of the relegation zone,” said McKinley.
“The bottom two are in contention to be relegated and at the start of the competition us and Meath were favourites so our players deserve serious credit for what they have done to date.
“We're hoping we don't settle for that and I think this will make us stronger and make the team drive on. If we win on Sunday we'd fancy our chances of making the final but we don't want to talk about that yet because this (Laois) is an important game and we need to make sure we're at it.”
THE GAA does not have a rule for penalizing a team no matter how many red, yellow or black cards it receives during a single game.
Offences are heard on a case-by-case basis and there is no mechanism for holding a team to account if multiple offences are committed. Three Carlow hurlers received straight red-cards at Corrigan Park, Belfast on Saturday and the challenge that left Michael Armstrong's arm broken in two places went completely unpunished. The severity of the injuries sustained by Antrim's players has led to calls for action to be taken against a team, as well as the individuals concerned.
“Any action we take will be based on the referee's report,” said a GAA spokesperson.
“Until that comes in, nothing can be said.”
The GAA disciplinary system begins with the receipt of the referee's report. Infractions are dealt with by the CCC, proposed penalties are handed out to the players reported who accept them or request a personal hearing. A straight red card carries a two-game ban.
“We can't make any specific comment on this game,” said a GAA spokesperson.
“There is a rule governing melee situations but there is no rule on whether a team gets ‘X' number of suspensions or sendings off or yellow cards that a further penalty is imposed. There's nothing in the Association rule book about that.”