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Ward injury adds to Royal County's midfield woe

JOE SHERIDAN may be homeward bound, but there's mixed news on the player availability front as Meath footballers attempt to kickstart their season after a disastrous league and the botched executive heave against manager Seamus McEnaney.

Towering midfielder Mark Ward has been ruled out for the entirety of their Leinster SFC campaign because of torn ankle ligaments, while there is still a major doubt over whether Shane O'Rourke will be fully fit for their provincial opener against Wicklow on May 27.

Ward is to have surgery to repair his ankle damage and is likely to be sidelined for between two and three months. Midfield has been a problem sector for the Royals this spring, and Ward's absence is compounded by the continued absence of the versatile O'Rourke, who hasn't played for the county since their qualifier defeat to Kildare last July.

The Simonstown clubman switched to midfield for the Royals' 'back door' run last summer, but he didn't feature this spring following hip surgery and hasn't returned to club action either.

There is better news for 'Banty' concerning three league regulars who missed the last-day defeat to Louth that condemned Meath to Division Three football next year. Defenders Kevin Reilly and Cormac McGuinness, plus corner-forward Paddy Gilsenan, are all expected to feature for their clubs this weekend.

Peadar Byrne, omitted from the squad at the start of the season, is also expected back in training in the coming week.

Meanwhile, former Meath boss Colm Coyle has blamed a laboured style of play for the county's relegation - and claimed Liam Harnan, who quit as selector last year, wouldn't have stood for such play.

"I know that Liam wouldn't have been playing that style of football. My view is we have too many lads back. We're playing a type of football that is too slow," Coyle concluded.