Without either confirming or denying the seemingly inevitable Mayo “will continue to assess” the shoulder injury sustained by forward Cillian O’Connor in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone – although his chances of playing in next month’s final are lying somewhere below slim.
“It’s dislocated again, we know that,” said Mayo press officer Aiden McLoughlin. “It’s the same (left) shoulder he dislocated before, there’s very little ligament left (undamaged), so it’s not looking good.
“But it is complicated. So it’s just going to be monitored over the coming days, and we will continue to assess the injury. He did come back way ahead of schedule the last time it happened so we’ll just have to wait and see. But we’re certainly not trying to hide anything.”
O’Connor was back with a specialist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin yesterday evening, and will get further assessment from the Mayo medical team on his return home later today: yet his body language at the moment of the injury, just 11 minutes into Sunday’s ultimately comprehensive win over Tyrone, suggested O’Connor realised this was exactly the same injury back to haunt him again.
O’Connor first dislocated the shoulder a week after losing last year’s All-Ireland final, to Donegal, when playing for his club, Ballintubber. With that he began the slow and tedious period of rehab over the winter, careful not to rush it: he got back in time for the closing rounds of the Allianz Football League, playing against Donegal and Cork, and also the league semi-final against Dublin.
Then, at the end of May, and again while playing for his club, he injured the same shoulder again: "It was just a tackle and whatever angle I came in at, it just popped out of its socket," he explained, in an interview with this newspaper, at the start of July.
In a sling
"The first time I was in a sling for four to six weeks, in the hope that the ligaments would tighten themselves, and become sufficiently strong enough to come back and play. The second time, and the nature of the tackle or whatever it was, they obviously weren't strong enough and it went again. I'll probably be looking at an operation in the off season this year."
It’s not all bad news for the O’Connor household, however: younger brother Diarmuid O’Connor plays midfield on the Mayo minor team – who beat Monaghan 3-19 to 1-12 in equally impressive style on Sunday – to also book their place in the final on September 22nd, where they’ll play the winners of this Sunday’s semi-final between Roscommon and Tyrone.
There is some consolation for Mayo manager James Horan too, in that while O'Connor's loss will be greatly lamented, Alan Freeman enjoyed one of his best games for Mayo on Sunday, hitting 1-4 (1-3 from placed balls) – and is thus poised to take over the free-taking duties on All-Ireland final day, unless O'Connor can somehow recover in the four-week timeframe.
Meanwhile, the GAA have confirmed that Brian Gavin will referee the All-Ireland hurling final between Cork and Clare on Sunday week, September 8th
The Offaly and Clara club man will take charge of his second Liam MacCarthy Cup decider in three years, having refereed the 2011 clash between Kilkenny and Tipperary.
Cork referee Cathal McAllister will officiate in the minor final between Galway and Waterford.