Sligo Rovers manager John Russell gives update on injured duo Johan Brannefalk and Karl O’Sullivan at club’s AGM

Sligo Rovers manager John Russell. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jessica FarrySligo Champion

Sligo Rovers duo Johan Brannefalk and Karl O’Sullivan could be out of action for less time than was initially feared, Wednesday night’s annual general meeting at ATU Sligo was told.

The pair suffered ankle injuries within minutes of one another in the 1-1 draw with Derry City at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium in their last outing before the international break.

O’Sullivan came on as a replacement for Brannefalk, and had to come off himself at half-time as he too suffered an ankle injury.

At Wednesday’s AGM, manager John Russell said he is hopeful that the pair will miss weeks rather than months, but the club is seeking a second medical opinion.

Russell told the AGM: “You lose one (right-back) and five minutes later the other guy goes down, it’s unfortunate for Karl because he’s had a really good pre-season and would be a direct replacement (for Brannefalk), especially the style of play we’re trying to develop.

"I’m disappointed to lose two in the one night. We thought it was going to be worse than it was, potentially one looked like they might need an operation.

"The early signs is that it’s not going to be months it’s going to be weeks, but we’re going to get a second opinion next week, but we’re hopeful that it’s not going to be as bad as first feared.”

Issuing members in attendance with an update on where the team is at, Russell said: “We’re fourth in the league after six games, I feel it’s been a decent start. Myself and the staff are very happy with the way things have gone, we’re coming to the end of March, on Saturday we play Bohemians at home, that will kick us off into a series of games, we have six in that month. It’s a busy schedule.

"We’ve shown good signs, we signed a lot of new players, I’ve said this in the media an awful lot and it’s true, to have success in this league it’s about bringing one or two players in each window and having that core group.

"We had to make wholesale changes, the players we’ve brought in, I’m very happy with them. It’s going to take time to integrate them all into the team but in terms of the quality we’ve brought in, very happy and they’ve shown good signs.”

And, Russell feels there has been plenty of positive signs for his side six games into the 2023 campaign, but he is conscious of his side’s lack of clean-sheets so far.

He said: “With the club, with Conor O’Grady here as Head of Academy, we’ve got to promote from within, that’s the model and we continue to do that. Again this year, Eanna Clancy has stepped in, Kailin Barlow has stepped in, they’ve done really well. That’s important for us as a club and for you the supporters to see home-grown players putting on the jersey and gracing The Showgrounds. We’ll continue to do that going forward.

"The work that’s gone on in pre-season, we played seven games, a lot of training sessions, another opportunity for me and the staff to look at academy players, we brought in an awful lot of the 17s and 19s who trained with us.

"Sometimes the fans might get worried during pre-season like ‘Jesus we got beaten at home to Wexford’ or ‘we went away to Pats and got beaten’. It’s about the bigger picture for me always. It was about being ready for Shamrock Rovers on the first day of the season and making sure that the whole squad knew what was expected and I feel we have a really strong squad going forward for the whole season.

"The trip to the UK was important as well to integrate all these new players, and I have to thank the committee and John McKeon was a big support in that as well. These things are massive for us as a club to keep raising the bar and the levels. All that helps you have a good start to the season. And that’s all it is, a good start.

"A couple of the positives, when I’m coming into tonight, and I’m like ‘what’s been good so far?’, we have two wins, three draws and one defeat. The big positive for me is with all the new players, the reaction and the character of such a new team to setbacks, yes we’ve shown that we can score goals but we haven’t kept a clean sheet yet.

"But the response of the players and the players coming off the bench, that really gives me hope going forward that we’ve got a good group here and hopefully we’ll have a good season because of that.

"A couple of the other things, the GPS trackers, we’re tracking the players and looking at the numbers, they're better than last year and that’s important to keep progressing. That will help us close the gap on the teams above us.

"Going forward, we have four international players now. We don’t get enough recognition being this side of the country in the media, whether the papers, the podcasts, the TV, sometimes they get our players names wrong and stuff, it’s up to us on the pitch to get results to get people talking about us. We’ve got to do our talking on the pitch.

"We’ve four players this week returning from international duty, that’s really good for the profile of the club. What we need to improve on, keeping clean sheets, we know that and we’re working hard on that, myself and the staff and the players.

"That comes with new players coming to the team and getting used to the league and getting used to each other. I think with time, with patience, I feel we can do something good this year.”