Double blow for Down as they lose captain Darren O'Hagan and Connaire Harrison for rest of 2020
DOWN have been dealt a hammer blow on the eve of inter-county football’s return, with captain Darren O’Hagan and forward Connaire Harrison both ruled out for the rest of the year.
O’Hagan doesn’t expect to be back playing until March 2021, having undergone the first of three scheduled surgeries on Tuesday, while full-forward Harrison’s ongoing battle with osteitis pubis sees him ruled out of National League and Championship action.
Clonduff stalwart O’Hagan is currently recovering from an operation to repair torn cartilage in his knee, sustained during the Yellas’ championship victory over Mayobridge at the end of August.
The 29-year-old will also have surgery on the broken wrist he suffered in the first post-lockdown league game in mid-July, before going under the knife again next month to sort out the hip problem that has dogged him in recent years.
Despite carrying those injuries through the county championship, O’Hagan had still hoped to play a part in Down’s campaign, which gets under way with the delayed Division Three clash against Leitrim on Saturday.
However, after a challenge game against Meath last week, the writing was on the wall.
“I spoke to Paddy [Tally] and Mickey Walsh and we said we’d try it, but I played 30-35 minutes and then the next morning my knee was up like a balloon. I had surgery on it yesterday,” he said.
“The wrist was starting to give me trouble at work… once it’s starting to affect your work and you’re missing days, it’s not worth it. I was able to play the rest of the county championship but now I’ve to go and get pins and screws into the scaphoid in a few weeks’ time, then I’ve to go for surgery on the hip on the 23rd of November.
“The hip’s been giving me trouble this last couple of years and it’s got to the stage where it’s unbearable now, it’s just affecting me too much. Before games you can hardly move, once you get warmed up you’re grand but then after games you’d be struggling for a couple of days.
“Ach, I’ll get over it - you’d just be cross you’re missing out on the Championship with Down. I tried, I struggled through the championship with Clonduff and I was hoping to see the winter out then go for the operations, but eventually you just had to make a call.
“I’d say it’ll probably be March next year before I’m back. I just need to go and get it all sorted, and then hopefully I’ll be back for the League next year.”
For Harrison, meanwhile, it is a frustrating end to a frustrating year in football terms.
Osteitis pubis, which left the 2017 Allstar nominee on the sidelines for much of Down’s early 2020 campaign, flared up again in the months after football returned and sees him miss the remaining League and Championship games.
“I’m gone for the rest of the year,” said the 30-year-old Glasdrumman man.
“I could play a game then be left crippled for a couple of weeks; you couldn’t get away playing at that level if you’re not 100 per cent fit.
“I got an injection in January which helped but it wore off this past few weeks and left me worse off. It was affecting my everyday work as well so it wasn’t just football.
“To get another injection wouldn’t have got me back in time so unfortunately it’s just one of those things. I’m doing rehab now to try and strengthen it naturally - it’s a complete nightmare to get rid of it, but hopefully in the next few months I’ll have it sorted.”