Marren blow for Sligo but Carew hopeful Yeats County can build on 2015
Sligo manager Niall Carew will have to plan without star forward Adrian Marren for up to three months - but still believes his side can gain promotion from Division 3 in the spring.
Marren is struggling with a knee injury that will keep him out of the early rounds of the league while experienced defender Ross Donovan is on an extended break from football.
However, Carew is hopeful of persuading him to return later in the year. "Adrian is out for 10-12 weeks with knee problems and he is a loss but it's up to other younger lads to step up. Adrian would be a big loss to anyone, let alone Sligo, but it opens a door for someone else," said Carew, who also revealed that former captain Charlie Harrison is edging back towards full fitness following a serious knee injury and could feature in the early stages of the league.
"Someone else has to step up and be the man and it's hard to do that when you have someone like Johnny Doyle or Michael Murphy or Trevor Giles in the team. You almost stand back and let them do it so it's a chance for someone else to make their mark."
The third tier of the league looks particularly competitive this year with Kildare, Leinster finalists Westmeath and Tipperary among those looking for one of two promotion places.
"It's the kind of division when teams can struggle to get out of and one year I think you'll see a team that is expected to come out of it fail to do so," Carew continued.
"I think if we perform in our games we could be at the right end of the table. And equally if we don't perform we could find ourselves down at the bottom of the table. It's that tight.
"And that's the thing about Division 3, if you perform well you won't be far away. Whereas if you were playing Mayo or one of the top teams a good performance mightn't be enough to beat them at this stage anyway."
Despite a hammering at the hands of Mayo in the Connacht final, Carew declared himself largely pleased with Sligo's showing in 2015 which saw them reach the last 12 of the championship.
"We finished the league strong I felt and won a couple of games there that we needed to. Then we played well against Roscommon in the championship and won that.
"Our only blip really was against Mayo. We didn't lay a glove on them and that was very disheartening. We never got going and we got things wrong on the line too. We were very lucky to have the Tyrone game then and that gave everyone a chance to correct them. There were four points in it and then we had three chances to score and we didn't take any of them. We missed chances that day we normally wouldn't miss.
"But look it was a great learning curve to play against top teams like Mayo and Tyrone even though we got a bit of a scutching from Mayo. We played three games on live TV and for around eight of the team, that was their first time to play in Croke Park in the Tyrone game.
"It was all great experience for them and while Tyrone won by seven, we felt it was more like a three- or four-point game so it showed us we can compete."
Sligo started their 2016 campaign with defeat to Galway and face GMIT this weekend. And Carew is keen that after announcing their arrival on the inter-county scene in 2015, his young guns deliver again this year.
"Yeah people will know what they are capable of so it's up to them and us as management to ensure we get back to playing a high level again."