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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Mayo set to be without key attacker for early league games

Cillian O’Connor is recovering from the knee surgery he underwent last month.

Cillian O’Connor is aiming for a February comeback.
Cillian O’Connor is aiming for a February comeback.

JAMES HORAN’S RETURN to the Mayo hot-seat saw him mix established players with young talent in their FBD League games against Leitrim and Galway over the past couple of weekends.

Ten players who featured in the 2017 All-Ireland final saw game-time in the pre-season competition, which indicates Horan will be looking to target a strong league campaign as he embarks on his second stint in charge of the county.

One key player he’ll be without for the opening few weeks of the Allianz Football League is Cillian O’Connor, who’s currently recovering from the keyhole knee surgery he underwent in December.

“I had a bit of work done on the knee before Christmas,” he said at the launch of eir sport’s Allianz Leagues coverage today.

“It was just a small enough job, so it wasn’t too bad. What I have been at for the Christmas, I have been laid up with that. You can see I’m not too bad moving about the place, moving on the rehab now in the next few weeks to try to get back.

“It is a funny one, it will depend on how it reacts to when I go back running towards the end of this month.

“If it goes well I can train with the rest of the boys in early February and I can look to get playing in the league. Obviously if it is a little bit slower the reaction to the running it might be mid to late March. It isn’t really defined yet, but we will see.”

That would appear to rule O’Connor out for Mayo’s opening two Division 1 games against Roscommon (26 January) and Tyrone (3 February), while the home clash with Cavan a week later may arrive too early for the county’s highest scoring forward.

It means that the 23 February meeting with All-Ireland champions Dublin in Croke Park could be the earliest date O’Connor returns to action – once his rehab goes off without a hitch.

DW6I1141 Cillian O'Connor pictured at today's eir Sport launch in Kilmainham. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

While Mayo suffered an early end to their season last summer in Newbridge, O’Connor enjoyed an extended club campaign with Ballintubber where they were defeated by Corofin in the Connacht final.

“It was probably something I’ve had for a year and a half or so,” he said. “I was kinda feeling it and it was probably getting progressively worse, but we had a window there after the club to get it done, so we said we may as well.

“It was just below my kneecap. The ligaments were fine, it was just a small bit of wear and tear really that the doc said we should tidy up to get rid of the pain and the pain is gone since I had it.

“I just need to strengthen up the area now because there is a bit of wastage around the knee. They are bit weaker now so it is just about strengthening that for the next few weeks, seeing then what it is like when I go back running.”

The 26-year-old is excited about linking up with Horan once again, who brought Mayo to two All-Ireland finals and won four straight Connacht titles between 2010 and 2014.

“Of course, he is experienced, he has been there before. He would have managed a club team in Mayo so he would know a lot of the younger players around the county, he would know the older players from his previous stint.

“He is a character who is always looking to learn, even in his time away he was upskilling doing different courses and shadowing different teams. I’m sure he has added to his repertoire over his last few months and years. It is exciting now to see what will happen.”

The county trials Horan held before Christmas were noteworthy in that the established players were required to attend, but O’Connor says that didn’t come as a surprise to the group.

“It probably was (surprising) to the outside and to the public, but anyone that knew him from before would have known that (they would have to attend trials) anyways.

“As soon it was announced that he was going to be manager, the players would have been well aware that there was going to be trials and that they would all be playing. It would nearly have been unspoken and accepted anyway that it would be a clean slate.

“That is just the way it has to be, the way it should be, the way we want it to be. It was no surprise that everybody was due to line out and to be honest 29 June we got knocked out so lads were mad to play, to get the boots on.”

****

eir sport have today announced details of its Allianz Leagues coverage for 2019, while also confirming it will broadcast two games from the Lidl Ladies National Football League. In total eir sport will broadcast fifteen live games in the coming months with up to three live matches available to GAA fans some weekends. The coverage begins on January 26th on the home of live GAA on Saturday nights under lights. 

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Kevin O'Brien

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