GAA Football

Door open for Down return if I can overcome injury nightmare: Connaire Harrison

An ongoing issue with osteitis pubis has kept Down forward Connaire Harrison out of the county fold in recent times, but he says the door remains open if can get back to full fitness. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

DOWN forward Connaire Harrison has dismissed speculation that he had rejected the opportunity to rejoin Paddy Tally’s panel – and insists the door remains open if he can overcome his injury woes in time for the start of the inter-county season.

A recurring problem with osteitis pubis, inflammation where the bones meet at the lower front part of the pelvis, left him on the sidelines for much of the early part of the 2020 campaign.

And when the condition worsened, Harrison wasn’t involved at all as the Mournemen finished off their National League campaign, sealing promotion to Division Two, before Ulster Championship outings against Fermanagh and Cavan in November.

Rumours had surfaced in recent times suggesting the 2017 Allstar nominee spurned Tally’s invitation to rejoin the panel over frustrations that the county board hadn’t arranged an operation to try and resolve his ongoing issue.

Harrison, though, says there is “no truth whatsoever” to the talk and says he still hopes to be involved down the line.

“It was a long-term injury and an operation was a no-go as I was advised to do it all naturally for the year that it was,” said the Glasdrumman clubman, who turns 31 later this month.

“I spoke with Paddy last week he’s looking me back in but I told him I want to make sure I’m 100 per cent before I commit as I felt it wouldn’t be fair on myself or him if I went straight back in and broke down again.

“The door is open for me and I’m not too far away, recovering wise. This was a nightmare of an injury to get rid of to be honest.

“An operation was never on the table at all. I’ve to go and see the Down medical team and see where I’m at and go from there.”

And while it has been a particularly frustrating 12 months, Harrison says he is in a better place than when he was forced to opt out of the rest of the season once the inter-county resumed last October.

“I’m a lot better.

“When I left I couldn’t make any sharp movement left or right or get up to full pace - I was always holding back in pain. But I’ve worked on that area quite a bit and have been back running and kicking so I’m not far away.

“I just don’t need to be breaking down again as it was affecting me at work never mind football, so that’s why I’m cautious of rushing back too early.”

Having a fully-fit Harrison to call upon would be a major boost for Tally, especially considering Down could be left without the services of Donal O’Hare for a large portion of the upcoming season.

The Burren ace is awaiting knee surgery at the end of February/start of March – which is when the 2021 National League is expected to get under way, although dates have yet to be confirmed.

Saval forward Pat Havern has returned to the fold, as has experienced full-back Gerard McGovern. The Burren man, who was a star performer during Down’s run to the 2017 Ulster final, had been living in Australia and has yet to feature under Tally.

However, after coming home he featured for the St Mary’s in the Down championship, and could well feature in red and black again this year.

Among other new and not-so-new faces in the panel are Carryduff midfielder Josh Connery, Longstone’s Finn McElroy and Bryansford goalkeeper Marc Reid, who last featured for Down in 2018, as well as Connor Gough of Newry Shamrocks.

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