GAA Football

Mounting injuries show counties are paying the price for rush back to competitive action says Cavan manager Mickey Graham

Influential midfielder Thomas Galligan hasn't featured in Cavan's opening two National League games, and may not play until their Ulster Championship showdown with Tyrone in July. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

CAVAN boss Mickey Graham believes counties are paying the price for being rushed back into competitive action as injuries mount up just weeks into the delayed National League season.

A hamstring injury forced Michael Murphy out of the action just six minutes into Donegal’s draw with Monaghan at the weekend, while Fermanagh midfielder Eoin Donnelly lasted 20 minutes against Derry before succumbing to the same injury.

Armagh saw their entire full-back line of Aidan Forker, James Morgan and Ryan Kennedy go off before half-time of their clash with Tyrone, with Forker’s replacement Paddy Burns also picking up an injury late on.

Graham was a strong advocate of a minimum five week pre-season before the League got under way, but the revised GAA calendar saw counties back playing less than four weeks after their return to collective training on April 19.

And the Breffni boss isn’t surprised by the toll being taken after such a long lay-off.

“The four weeks before going into competitive action wasn’t near enough - the lads just aren’t conditioned enough,” said Graham.

“They might have worked a lot in their own time away but nothing prepares you for physical contact and the robust nature of training and games.

“It’s a totally different scenario to last year because lads were coming in off the back of club championship so they were exposed to games week in, week out. When they came to us they were match fit and ready to go and we hadn’t near as many injuries.

“This time around you can definitely see the difference. We’ve been down a few players since before the start of the League, we’ve lost a few since the start of it – there wasn’t enough time to prepare these lads and it seems a lot of teams are in the same boat as ourselves.”

Among Graham’s walking wounded is midfielder Thomas Galligan, the 2020 Allstar and Ulster player of the year who played a starring role as Cavan swept to a first provincial title in 23 years last November.

The Lacken powerhouse hasn’t featured in the Division Three North games against Fermanagh and Longford, and won’t be available for tomorrow’s clash with Derry in Kingspan Breffni.

Indeed, Graham admits all counties will have an eye on the start of the Ulster Championship in just over a month’s time as they weigh up how best to manage injuries within their squad.

“Thomas picked up a knock when he first came back and we’re just making sure to get him right,” said the Breffni boss, whose Ulster title defence begins against Tyrone in Omagh on the weekend of July 10/11.

“He’s a bit away yet, we’d be hoping in the next few weeks we might see him return to action but at this moment in time he’s still on the rehab list.

“Because the season is so condensed and the games are coming on a weekly basis, anyone who picks up an injury now is out for five or six weeks, which basically rules them out for the Championship never mind the League.

“You have to be careful and mind that. I know it’s important to pick up points in the League and do well but you have to think of the players’ welfare, not just for us but for their clubs later in the year.”

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GAA Football