Thursday 29 September 2016

Tom Parsons hopes to leave the treatment table behind

Midfielder will add mobility to Mayo if he can stay injury-free

Dermot Crowe

Published 14/06/2015 | 02:30

Tom Parsons, Mayo, in action against Anthony Maher, Kerry
Tom Parsons, Mayo, in action against Anthony Maher, Kerry

TOM Parsons, who has been recalled for his first championship start in five years, is hoping to relaunch a career seriously hampered by injury against Galway this afternoon. Parsons last started a senior championship match for his county in June 2010 against Sligo, when Mayo were under the reign of John O'Mahony. He was one of a number of players let go from the panel in April of the following year.

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By then, James Horan had taken charge and Parsons was deemed surplus to requirements. He had played three of Mayo's national league games that spring and a further three as a substitute. His club colleague in Charlestown and former Mayo forward John Casey feels Parsons got a raw deal. "I felt he was hard done by if you look at what he (Horan) had in terms of back-up midfielders," he says.

And so began a spell in the wilderness, during which he spent some time working in Wales and away from football. Parsons had been Mayo under 21 captain in 2009 under the current senior management pair of Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes, but it was Horan who recalled him to the county squad last year. Parsons' dreadful luck with injuries resurfaced when he had to leave his comeback match against Kildare in the league at Newbridge. He missed most of the campaign, returning to play as a sub against Cork and in the final round against Derry, which was effectively a dead rubber.

Parsons returned to championship football as a sub in the win over New York that started the 2014 series, only to receive another injury a short time later that ruled him out for most of the summer. He returned, again as a sub, in the All-Ireland semi-final draw and replay against Kerry.

Casey says their hope now is that he gets an extended break from injury in order to establish himself as a permanent choice in the middle of the field. With Mayo utilising Aidan O'Shea as a centre-forward option, and having mobility issues around that part of the field in recent years, Parsons is seen as a player who can add something new - a greater dynamism and fluidity - to their middle third.

"He had a fitness test recently and came second, and he was only back from injury after being out for around eight weeks," says Casey. "He was always a lovely footballer, but he has instilled a bit of aggression - he needed that. You will see venom is his tackling now. You will see him smashing fellas around the place. He is still a very good fetcher of the ball, and he always had the athleticism, but he lacked the bit of aggression until now."

Parsons missed most of this year's league with injury but returned to produce a man-of-the-match performance against Cork, scoring four eye-catching points from out the field. On the following Tuesday, he injured a calf muscle and missed the Donegal match in the final round. He is said to have impressed in a recent challenge match against Cork and in A v B matches in training.

Ten years ago, he was on the Mayo minor team, but even then he was being tormented by injury and he missed the All-Ireland final loss to Down. He made his senior championship bow for Mayo in 2008 against Sligo. The same year, he was a surprise inclusion in the Ireland squad that toured Australia for the international rules series - the only Mayo player selected by manager Seán Boylan.

Before his removal from the Mayo panel in 2011, he played against Dublin, Monaghan and Armagh in the league. Horan then released Parsons, Mark Ronaldson and Barry Moran in April. Moran returned in 2012. Ronaldson was recalled this year.

Against Galway today, Parsons is being given an opportunity to nail down a permanent place as Mayo start out on another summer expedition, but often in the past matters beyond his control have conspired against him.

Parsons was linked to a potential Aussie rules trial while touring with the Irish team in 2008, but the reports circulating were wide of the mark. "I never talked with any club, any agent, nor did I want to," he said at the time. "I went to Australia to do my best for Ireland, but I was always intent on coming back, and it never even crossed my mind that I may try out in the AFL. All I was thinking about was getting back with Mayo next year, and I've already started into the pre-season weights programme."

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