Harte hopeful McNamee will be fit in time to face Donegal

With McCarron already ruled out, Tyrone fear the loss of a second pivotal defender

Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee lies injured during the clash against Dublin at Healy Park but he could yet be fit in time to face Donegal at Ballybofey. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee lies injured during the clash against Dublin at Healy Park but he could yet be fit in time to face Donegal at Ballybofey. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Tyrone could be without their two most experienced defenders for Sunday’s must-win Super 8s clash with Donegal.

Cathal McCarron’s season is over, and with a place in the All-Ireland semi-final at stake, the Red Hands are facing the prospect of losing Ronan McNamee as well.

The Tyrone full-back hasn’t trained since suffering a calf injury in the defeat to Dublin ten days ago but, while his chances of playing at Ballybofey are receding, manager Mickey Harte hasn’t given up hope.

“Ronan’s injury is significant enough, in that he didn’t train there at the weekend, and he’s working on it, the physios are working on trying to reduce the swelling on the calf muscle,” he said.

“If that progresses as well as it has in the last 48 hours, there’s a good chance that he will be available, but that’s not a certainty at all.”

McCarron suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Super 8s opener against Roscommon at Croke Park, and is awaiting surgery.

But Harte lauded the attitude of the 32-year-old, and his determination to recover and return to the team.

“It’s unfortunate that his injury turned out to be a bit more serious than first anticipated. But that’s life, and he is just devastated but he’s very philosophical about it as well, he just says: ‘lookit, this is where it’s at, you have to take whatever’s coming, get it sorted out and roll up your sleeves and go at it again.

“It’s good that he’s thinking about the future, and not thinking that this is a career-ending injury. It’s just something that he has to deal with right now, so I think that’s a positive that he’s thinking and speaking that way. But he won’t be available to us this season anyway.”

On the plus side, Lee Brennan, who ended the NFL as Division One’s top scorer, is in line to make his first appearance since the Ulster Championship first round defeat to Monaghan, during which he suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury.

The Trillick forward was in the match-day squad for the Healy Park clash with the Dubs, but Harte opted not to risk him.

“It’s great to have another two weeks for Lee Brennan to be in a much better position than he was. Obviously, getting over the injury, not having played much football, it was a high risk factor, what could he get, or could he get anything out of that other game?

Better position

“So the way it turned out, we didn’t feel it was worth risking him again. he’s in a much better position now to have game time.”

MacCumhaill Park will be rocking with a sell-out crowd installed for the most important championship meeting of these neighbouring counties since the 70s when all championship games were sudden death, knock-out contests.

“We have met them in a few other places at different stages of the championship, in Ballybofey and in Clones at various stages, but we have never played a game of this significance and of this importance in their own back yard, so it is a serious challenge and a new challenge, and we’re going to have to be at our best to get the result we want,” said Harte.

“It is definitely bringing the rivalry of the recent past to a new level, and this is the most important game we will face off in in championship in my time, for sure, and probably well before that. It has caught the imagination of the general public.

“From the off, it looked likely that both of us would be vying for the second place. Everybody expected Dublin to win this group, and we probably both believed that with the experience we had in Division One, we should both be fit for Roscommon, and it turned out that way.

“So this was really the winner-takes-all game, and the fact that they have it at home, that’s the one benefit that they have got as well as being Ulster champions, so we have to deal with that.”

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