TYRONE midfielder Padraig McNulty looks set to miss Dungannon’s club championship opener against Trillick due to complications in his recovery from a broken arm.
He suffered the break in the second half of the National Football League clash with Donegal at Ballybofey back in February and hasn’t played since.
Dungannon manager Chris Rafferty confirmed that the healing process has been slower than expected, and that he’s planning without one of his key players.
“It hasn’t knitted the way it should knit, so he’s definitely a month to six weeks away from any contact at all,” said Rafferty.
“I don’t want to speak for him or I don’t want to put him under any pressure, but at the minute, he has had no real progress.”
And on the team captain’s chances of featuring at all in this year’s Tyrone SFC, Rafferty said: “Unless we get very far in it.”
Next month’s first round championship meeting with Trillick is a repeat of the sensational 2020 final, which the Clarke’s won in a penalty shoot-out to claim their first title in 65 years, with McNulty as their captain and driving force.
Despite his absence, Dungannon have been moving well in the league, defeating holders and joint leaders Carrickmore by 3-12 to 1-10 on Wednesday evening to move into fifth place, with former Tyrone attacker Paul Donaghy scoring 1-7.
“We’re very happy with that. That was probably our most complete performance of the year. We got goals at the right time, and goals win games,” said Rafferty.
“Tyrone is a very competitive league. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night, and that adds to it, to be perfectly honest.”
Rafferty paid tribute to ace finisher Donaghy, who was also on top form in the weekend draw with Errigal Ciaran, when Dungannon fought back from ten points behind to salvage a point.
“He’s a massive asset, he’s a great footballer, he’s a good athlete, and the other thing about having him on means that it gives a wee bit more space for everybody else, and he distracts other defenders.
“And a big field like Carrickmore, with the width and the length, certainly suits him.”
The Clarke’s boss feels that his side can continue to put pressure on front-runners Omagh, Killyclogher, Carrickmore and Errigal, but he also senses that some of the top teams may be shifting their focus from league to championship as the race for the O’Neill Cup draws closer.
“Definitely we think that we can be competitive, and as competitive as anybody else.
“But I also think at this stage, people are beginning to jockey for position.
“Teams that have done well are looking towards the Championship and at who is coming back in a few weeks time.
“It’s going to be a very congested August, and those that have the points might be taking their eye off the ball to focus on further down the line, whereas those that don’t have the points are still very much chasing them.”