Down fear the worst as Rodgers struggles with injury
DOWN are resigned to being without midfielder and captain Ambrose Rodgers for Sunday week's All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Kildare.
Mourne manager James McCartan admitted yesterday that "there is still a bit of hope but the odds are certainly stacked against him".
In the wake of Down's sensational quarter-final defeat of Kerry, Rodgers damaged his knee playing championship football for his club Longstone. That was nine days ago, and while Down are still not revealing the extent of the injury, it is believed to be ligament damage.
"He's seeing a specialist this week and we're not expecting good news," McCartan conceded.
Down's opponents are also sweating over a midfielder with a knee injury, as Dermot Earley is also doubtful.
But McCartan said Down will be cautious because Rodgers is still only 25. "He's very important to us and there is the possibility that he could tear on and take a chance," he said.
"But then you'd look at the Dermot Earley situation. Dermot's 32 and nearer the end of an outstanding playing career and maybe sees this as one of his last chances. Ambrose is a lot younger and maybe (by playing) would put the rest of his career at risk."
Rodgers' young career has already been littered with injuries, including a ruptured spleen, and he missed this year's Division 2 NFL final against Armagh with a foot injury. Former U-21 star Peter Fitzpatrick deputised for him that day but Down could take Dan Gordon -- who McCartan drafted in as an emergency full-back during his side's qualifier run -- back out of defence to his usual role in centre-field.
"We have quite a few options and will look at them all carefully," McCartan said. "The obvious ones are Peter Fitzpatrick and Dan Gordon, but other people have played in midfield before and have been showing encouraging signs . We'll not be using it as an excuse on the day if things don't go well," added McCartan. "At the minute there's still a little bit of hope but I think the odds are certainly stacked against Ambrose."