DONAL Óg Hodnett is fit and raring to go ahead of O’Donovan Rossa’s Cork senior A football championship campaign.
The influential Hodnett ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in a Kelleher Shield game against Valley Rovers back in May 2019. Scheduled to make his comeback 12 months on from that horrific injury, Hodnett’s return was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But now the former Cork forward is ready to line out for O’Donovan Rossa in their championship opener – against St Nick’s this Saturday in Brinny (3.30pm) – having been nursed back into action.
‘Thankfully, Donal Óg is back training with us for a good while now,’ O’Donovan Rossa manager Martin Bohane confirmed.
‘He played a part in a recent challenge match and came through it fine. He seems to be going well enough at the moment. Obviously, we are minding him as best we can because we are conscious of his previous injury and the need to carefully manage it.
‘It has been a case of slowly integrating Donal Óg back into our senior club set-up. In general, we are fortunate in that, although there are a few players with niggles, there is nothing serious to report as we approach our opening game.’
O’Donovan Rossa are equally lucky they don’t have an intermediate or senior hurling fixture list to contend with. The club’s junior B hurlers begin their West Cork championship in August so managing the senior footballer squad’s immediate workload should be more straightforward.
‘We are lucky in that there is a good gap between each of our senior A championship games,’ Bohane said.
‘We doesn’t have a senior hurling club which would have tied up our players even more. We are happy with the balance and size of the squad this year. There is plenty of quality and strength in depth there. Even if we do encounter a few injuries, and we will, there is a good group of fellas ready and able to step in.
‘Again, injuries and fellas coming back from injury in such a short period is a worry, but we are like every other club in that regard. It is just a case of getting on with it.’
Drawn in Group A1 of the senior A football championship, O’Donovan Rossa take on St Nick’s in Brinny on Saturday before facing Beal A’than Ghaorthaidh and St Michaels.
‘There has never been much in it any time we have played St Nicks,’ Bohane said.
‘We cannot look beyond that first game as losing focus could prove disastrous. The first game is like a county final for us in that we have to win it. I see that we have been mentioned as one of the favourites but that’s only on paper. All O’Donovan Rossa can do is look after ourselves and not take any notice of any of that.’
O’Donovan Rossa’s underage structure has seen talented U21, U20 and minors promoted to the senior ranks in recent years. The likes of Dylan Hourihane, Elliot Conolly and Rory Byrne have augmented a starting line-up already boasting Kevin Davis and Donal Óg Hodnett’s combined attacking talents. Skibbereen will need every one of their younger squad members in the coming weeks.
‘We played ten U21’s in last year’s senior championship,’ Bohane noted.
‘A lot of them are regulars now at this stage while a few more have been blooded with the last while. Yes, Skibbereen has a very young panel of players but that has brought a freshness to our set-up. We needed it. It is a transitional period for the seniors in that a lot of older fellas are coming towards the end of their playing careers. It is important that we have those young fellas coming through as they will no doubt play important roles in the years ahead.
'Looking ahead, it’s great that we have a calendar of games and dates for each of those games. There is an opportunity for us to go on a bit of a run but then it is the same for every other club, no matter what their grade, with the way the championships have been laid out.’