‘Freak’ O’Connell not ruled out of Monaghan’s trip to Galway

Monaghan manager Vinny Corey after the draw with Derry in Celtic Park. Pic: Margaret McLaughlin
Monaghan manager Vinny Corey. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

JUST about anyone else would be ruled out of Monaghan’s trip to Galway with the injury he has, but Karl O’Connell is not to be given up on says his manager Vinny Corey.

The Tyholland wing-back suffered a tear in his groin but labelling him “a freak” in the best sense of the word, Corey said he couldn’t be ruled completely out of contention for Saturday.

“Karl got a bit of a groin tear. Karl’s a freak, he’s just a thoroughbred. Karl would tell you it’s just a scratch and he’ll be back.

“He heals exceptionally quick. I’d say for another player, he’d be out for a few weeks but I wouldn’t write him off, he’s just that sort of freak.”

Captain Kieran Duffy wasn’t togged out either for Monaghan’s win over Meath on Sunday afternoon, their first victory in 141 days.

Duffy has a “hamstring tweak” but was back training and Corey hasn’t given up on him featuring in Salthill either.

“We don’t know what another week would bring. He’s back training. We were down a right bit of experience there when you look at those boys, even from the defence last year you only had half of those defenders.

“It’s tough but it’s an opportunity for boys to step up, and we need them to step up. Let’s see what next weekend brings, they’ll be stepping up against tougher opposition.”

One of those that have stepped up is Killian Lavelle.

This time last year he was dabbling in defensive duty, still playing midfield on occasion, but his role this season has been primarily as Monaghan’s chief man-marker at either full-back or centre-half.

He produced a brilliant defensive display against Matthew Costello at the weekend, pushing on to kick the score that gave them a one-point half-time lead that grew to nine at its highest point when Barry McBennett rifled home their goal.

It looked at that stage as though they might leapfrog Louth into second spot, which would have meant they were at home to Cork this weekend rather than away to Galway.

It wasn’t to be though.

“I wasn’t really thinking about second or third, it was just about getting the win. We hadn’t won in a number of games, the main objective today was just to get a win, no matter how,” said Lavelle.

“We went a good few points up but the game management wasn’t as good as it should have been on our behalf. Again, we saw it out is the main thing.

“We’ve put ourselves in winning positions in a number of games between then and now, just a number of things, a bit of luck, game management on our behalf, we just haven’t got over that line.

“Our objective at the start of the groups was to get out. Championship football is June and July, those are the months it happens. We put the league behind us, full focus on the championship.

“I think there’s plenty of energy in the group and plenty of players have come on to the scene this year and added to what we have. I wouldn’t get too hung up. We’ll look at that patch where we were ahead and we did concede.

“It was probably an element of being ahead and wanting to see it out, but we’d want to be more ruthless than that.”

At 27, Lavelle’s role is not only a footballing one but a leadership one. The natural order of things has seen experience filter out of their squad over the last two years through retirement, leaving them very much in the middle of a transition into a new team.

The injuries to O’Connell and Duffy didn’t help much, with Darren Hughes milling around the field as well after the game having suffered a season-ending injury against Cavan the first day out.

Lavelle paid tribute to the impact those men make even when they aren’t playing.

“I think there’s a lot of championship debutants this year. It’s gonna be a squad game and those boys add a massive amount, be it in training or giving words of advice.

“Having them around, even if they’re not on the pitch, is hugely valuable in bringing us on and continuing to build.”