TYRONE'S bid to avoid a third successive season in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League has taken a blow with the news that Sean Cavanagh is likely to miss the first two rounds.
Cavanagh is making good progress after suffering a detached tendon in his left shoulder last September. However, manager Mickey Harte has admitted that the versatile star is unlikely to be back in competitive mode until March.
"I'd say the league will be a few games on before we actually see him taking the field again," said Harte. "He's progressing well in that he seems to be well over the injury, so we'll see how January goes and how he is then."
Tyrone face Kildare and Derry in their first two games, before taking on Louth, Westmeath, Galway, Meath and Monaghan.
They have been hit by a raft of retirements from their three-time All-Ireland-winning team, with Brian Dooher, Enda McGinley, Philip Jordan, Brian McGuigan and Ciaran Gourley all stepping down.
Cavanagh's leadership is expected to be particularly vital this season -- Harte has already gone for a very young squad for the McKenna Cup, which includes Ronan O'Neill and Conor Clarke from Tyrone's 2010 All-Ireland-winning minor team.
The Red Hands open their campaign against Queen's University on Sunday week.
In Limerick, hurling manager John Allen has revealed that he is planning for the vast majority of the league campaign without defender Seamus Hickey.
The Murroe-Boher clubman, Young Hurler of the Year in 2007, will be absent for the early months of the year due to study commitments.
However, Allen confirmed that the versatile star will be available for the Munster SHC quarter-final against Tipperary on May 27.
"Seamus will be in America for a few months," Allen said. "He'll be back for the end of the league at the earliest. He'll miss the most of it. He'll be a big loss."
The first official games of the new GAA season will take place next Wednesday when Sligo IT take on Galway and Sligo play NUI Galway in Connacht's FBD League.
The Connacht Council confirmed yesterday that FBD Insurance has renewed its sponsorship of the competition for another year, and that London will take part for the first time.
The Exiles are travelling to play Sligo IT on Saturday, January 7, and will play Sligo the next day, when Mayo take on Leitrim, GMIT face Roscommon and Galway square up to NUI Galway.
The winners will travel to America in October for a match against New York.