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Mayo stars on road to recovery

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IN IT TOGETHER Brendan Harrison (centre) is pictured with Diarmuid O’Connor, and other members of the Mayo squad and backroom team after the All-Ireland SFC Final defeat to Dublin last December. Pic: Sportsfile

Feature
Mike Finnerty

OUT of sight and out of mind.
And nobody knows that better than the lads themselves.
Everyone’s plan is to be flying fit, playing well and in the team. But then an injury hits, you’re out of action, out of the picture, and part of a different group altogether.
It’s the same in every team sport and the Mayo senior football squad is no different.
‘The walking wounded’ who spend more time talking to and dealing with doctors, specialists, and team physios like Mark Gallagher and Brendan Butler than they do with management and team-mates.
Players for whom training sessions have been replaced by rehab’ programmes and for whom match days last season were spent at home on their couches, due to the GAA’s Covid-19 regulations.
Ironically, the only exception to that rule was the All-Ireland Final last December, meaning that injured players who were outside the magic number of ‘26’ were so near, and yet so far, from the action at Croke Park.
This week we focus on three Mayo players who missed all the drama of last season, but will be hoping to be back in the thick of it again when the 2021 campaign begins.

Brendan Harrison
Aghamore
Age: 28
Last played for Mayo: February 2, 2020

THE sight of Brendan Harrison on crutches on the field at Croke Park after last December’s All-Ireland Final defeat was a poignant reminder of another man that Mayo missed badly against Dublin.
The All-Star defender had a procedure on his injured knee the week leading up to the final and didn’t kick a ball for either Aghamore or Mayo from mid-July onwards last year.
An innocuous twist of his knee during the very first club match back after lockdown restrictions were lifted last summer — in the Michael Walsh League against Knockmore — turned out to be a lot more serious than Harrison thought at the time.
As he walked off the field that evening, before driving himself home and organising to get the knee examined, little did he know that he wouldn’t lace up a pair of boots for a game again in 2020.
He was also set to miss most, if not all, of Mayo’s National League campaign this spring, had the competition started last month as was originally planned. However, with no start date confirmed for either club or county football yet this season, he now looks set to be ready to go — barring any setbacks.

Colm Boyle
Davitts
Age: 34
Last played for Mayo: January 28, 2020

RARELY (if ever) has a Mayo footballer ‘not’ sending a message via his social media account (@ColmBoyle is his Twitter handle in case you didn’t know already) been a cause for such great celebration among Mayo supporters.
After the synchronised retirements of six players in the space of 20 days in January, there was a genuine sense of dread that ‘Boyler’ would also leave the Mayo stage.
However, it now seems that barring the inter-county season not going ahead this year, the Davitts dynamo will be back for at least one more shot at a few titles (and maybe a few cocky forwards too!).
It’s 13 months since Boyle suffered what was described some weeks later as ‘a serious knee injury’ by James Horan. We now understand it to have been a badly damaged cruciate ligament that ended his inter-county season there and then against Dublin on January 28.
Typical of the man, he did battle back to line out for Davitts in the club championship in late July, just six months after getting injured, but he was unable to convince Horan and company that he was ready to play any Mayo minutes when the season restarted in October.
In fact, he didn’t make the match-day squads for the Galway, Tipperary and Dublin matches.
The Westport-based Garda will be 35 this July so it will be fascinating to see what role the manager has in mind for the four-time All Star.

Jason Doherty
Burrishoole
Age: 31
Last played for Mayo: August 3, 2019

THERE was a huge amount of sympathy and genuine disappointment for Doherty when news emerged last October that the talented forward had torn the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his right knee during a training session with Mayo.
After all, that unfortunate setback had occurred just 14 months after he had torn the ACL in his left knee during the course of the All-Ireland SFC ‘Super 8s’ game against Donegal in Castlebar in early August in 2019.
Doherty had put himself through a gruelling rehabilitation programme to get back in action for Burrishoole last July and was back in the frame to line out with Mayo when the inter-county season restarted last Autumn.
However, instead he was resigned to watching on from the sidelines with the rest of us.
We can only imagine what the last five months have been like for him, especially considering that he had been edging close to a Mayo return last spring when Covid-19 brought everything to a halt.
All going well, the hope is that Jason will be back in action again with club and county later this summer.

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