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Caolan Mooney back in Down fold – though Championship return remains unlikely

Caolan Mooney's last game for Down came in last year's Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan. Picture by Philip Walsh
Caolan Mooney's last game for Down came in last year's Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan. Picture by Philip Walsh Caolan Mooney's last game for Down came in last year's Ulster Championship defeat to Monaghan. Picture by Philip Walsh

CAOLAN Mooney is back involved with the Down panel – although he remains unlikely to feature in the upcoming Tailteann Cup

The flying wing-back underwent surgery last August to repair a ruptured cruciate knee ligament, having suffered the injury playing for RGU Downpatrick in May.

And in an interview with the Smaller Fish podcast last year, Mooney suggested his county career could be over.

“I'll probably never play for Down again,” he told Colm Parkinson, “coming back from this injury and things that went on this last few years is enough to see me just play for the club.”

However, it is understood the 30-year-old has being continuing his rehabilitation alongside the Down panel in recent weeks as he nears a return to action.

And while this Championship campaign might come too soon, the 30-year-old is expected to be back in the mix with Conor Laverty’s side next year.

After Ulster semi-final defeat to Armagh ended any hope of sealing a spot in the All-Ireland series, the Mournemen have their first Tailteann Cup outing at home to Waterford on Saturday evening.

They will be without Liam Kerr for the visit of the Division Four Deise to Pairc Esler after the Burren playmaker picked up a knock against the Orchardmen, though Down will be boosted by the return of U20 players Odhrán Murdock and Paddy McCarthy.

The Burren pair played pivotal roles as the Mournemen lifted a second Ulster U20 title in three years, before last weekend’s devastating last-gasp All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kildare.

A hamstring injury meant captain Ryan Magill was only able to play the final 15 minutes of that defeat to the Lilywhites, and he is not expected to play any part on Saturday as he continues his recovery.

Down’s away game in the Tailteann Cup sees them travel to Tipperary on Sunday, May 21 in a game that will act as the curtain-raiser to the Premier hurlers’ Munster Championship clash with All-Ireland champions Limerick.

Their final group game, against Meath on the weekend of June 3/4, will take place at a neutral venue, with Clones the most likely destination.