Saturday 21 April 2018

Time running out for O'Neill in his efforts to prove fitness for Down clash

Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill
Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Tyrone star Stephen O'Neill is in a race against time to be fit for the county's Ulster championship opener against Down on May 18.

O'Neill (34) has yet to see action for the county this year and team trainer Fergal McCann revealed that the former Footballer of the Year is at least four weeks away from being able to take part in squad sessions.

"He's still in the treatment room, so he's still a couple of weeks off getting back out on to the pitch," revealed McCann.

"Then he'll have to go through a couple of weeks of rehab work out on the pitch before he can join full training."

O'Neill has endured a frustrating period with injury since last spring when he appeared to be regaining some of his best form.

And while the absence of the 34-year-old would be a blow for the Red Hand, there is better news surrounding the McMahon brothers, Joe and Justin, who could feature in the Omagh clash with Down.

With Tyrone not involved in the knockout stages of the league, McCann confirmed that their squad will be released back to the clubs as they look to bridge the six-week gap to the championship.

PROBLEM

"Justin has recovered from hamstring trouble, and made the bench for the final two NFL games against Cork and Dublin, but he saw no action," said McCann.

"And Joe is close to a return to full training following a lengthy lay-off with a groin problem. We're putting no time on it, but they're all making good progress.

"Justy was part of the squad, and Joe is out with us doing work on the pitch as well. He is currently working with the physios at the minute, so he's taking some part in the training, then he is taking time out and working with the physios."

Elsewhere, Donncha O'Connor and Daniel Goulding have been drafted into the Cork attack for Sunday's league semi-final clash with Dublin in Croke Park.

The pair replace the injured Colm O'Driscoll (calf) and Barry O'Driscoll (broken thumb) while injury also rules out Aidan Walsh, Eoin Cadogan, Donal Og Hodnett (all hamstring) and John O'Rourke (groin). There was some good news as Ruairi Deane's knee injury is not as serious as first feared and does not require surgery.

Manager Brian Cuthbert will reveal his substitutes later today, while Dublin are expected to name their line-up tomorrow night.

Cork (NFL v Dublin) – K O'Halloran; M Shields, J O'Sullivan, T Clancy; J Loughrey, P Kelly, D Cahalane; F Goold, A O'Sullivan; M Collins, D O'Connor, P Kerrigan; D Goulding, B Hurley, J Hayes.

Irish Independent

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