8 Players who are back with a bang
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Soccer managers often talk about the return of an injured player as being akin to signing a new player.
No doubt it feels the same for a boss whether gets a star back in the set-up whether it's after work, travel or any other commitments.We've looked at some key returns — please let us know who you think will make a big comeback in 2017.
Jack McCarron (Monaghan)
We're talking about a player who has gone through injury hell over anumber of years before making a big burst this season. First called into the Monaghan panel for the 2012 Championship clash with Laois, the woes began with a tear of the rotator cuff in his shoulder at the end of that campaign. He went from that to a torn cruciate knee ligament, several hamstring tears and surgery on his ankle. So what's Jack been up to? The highlights have been 1-5 from play against Dublin, 1-03 against Kerry, and another 0-04 against Tyrone. Once a soccer star for Monaghan United, his father Ray won an All Star in 1986 and he is a cousin of recently-retired Dick Clerkin. McCarron's left foot is a precision piston and his likely partnership this summer with Conor McManus is an exciting proposition.
Seanie Furlong (Wicklow)
The Kiltegan clubman quit the squad due to family commitments after the 2015 season but returned this year along with John McGrath, Dean Healy and Patrick O'Connor. The Garden County struggled in Division 4, however the addition of Furlong up front has been one of the positives of an otherwise lacklustre 2017. A return of 1-35 in six Allianz league outings shows the side what they've been missing.
Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
The 2015 Footballer of the Year out of Dublin's successful defence of the All-Ireland last season to go travelling to Africa to undergo volunteer work as part of his medical studies. While John Small did an exceptional job in his wing-back role, the Clontarf man's return has been a smooth one. Put a punctuation mark on his league when lifting the Monaghan net out of it to complete another comeback during the Allianz league. Was missed in the final defeat to Kerry.
CJ McGourty (Antrim)
McGourty hasn't played championship for Antrim since June 5, 2015, when clipping over 0-3 in a qualifier defeat to Fermanagh. The AIB club All-Ireland winner with St Gall's spent most of 2016 in Australia but was invited to return to the Antrim camp after meeting with managers Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams. The 28-year-old had been playing soccer in the off-season with Amateur League outfit Comber Rec, but felt he had unfinished business with the Saffrons. “One of the reasons why I want to go back is because I think I’ve under-achieved at county level, for whatever reason,” livewire McGourty was quoted as saying. His haul of 1-7 in an Allianz league clash with Longford suggests there's more to come.
Sean Armstong (Galway)
Galway have been lacking an experienced focal point up front so the return of Armstrong after missing the 2015 and ’16 seasons has been a huge boon. The 31-year-old highlighted everything that has been good about his game in the Division 2 final win over Kildare: his ability to win 50-50s, his darting runs, link-up play and accurate shooting. Five points in his last two Allianz league outings has teed the Salthill-Knocknacarra man up for a big summer. The real test will come in an expected Connacht semi-final clash with Mayo on June 11, and what a blast from the past it would be if another returning star, Michael Meehan, joined Armstrong up top.
Sean McCormack (Longford)
McCormack took some time out from the panel after the league in 2015 and has only now returned after a two-year hiatus. The inside forward said recently: "I was snowed under with college and got it very hard to juggle everything. I was doing everything but giving nothing 100%. I knew my studies had to come first at that moment." The Killoe man insists that the time away has done him good, and his comeback coincides with that of his brother Padraig too. Hit 0-2 against both Offaly and Laois, one against Louth, three against Tipp, and nailed Sligo for 0-7 during the Division 3 campaign.
Paddy Codd (Tipperary)
The Killenaule clubman decided to take a year out after playing for the Premier County in the 2015 All-Ireland qualifier defeat against Tyrone. Codd, who captained his county to the Division 4 title in 2014, was handed the number three jersey Allianz league opener against Antrim upon his return this season. The full-back's father Frank was a top-class amateur jockey, riding Bit of a Skite to victory in the 1983 National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. Ross Mulcahy, Liam Casey, Kevin Fahey and Jason Lonergan have also come back to Liam Kearns' set-up after missing last year's championship.
Jamie Clarke (Armagh)
The hipster of Gaelic games, Clarke took some time away from the game last year to pursue his other interests in New York. While he was gone, Armagh failed to win a championship game in 2016 and had already been relegated to Division 3 in the league. Meanwhile, the Crossmaglen man was playing and scoring goals from semi-professional soccer side NY Shamrocks in the city's Cosmopolitan League. Kieran McGeeney has welcome Clarke back into the fold though. The classy forward is living in Dublin and has just completed his first full Allianz league campaign since 2014. He said recenty: "But it was being over there and spending time away that made me realise what was at home. It told me for sure that what I wanted was to be winning games for Armagh in Croke Park. And I think that if I had stayed there, no matter what I did with my life or what I achieved, I would have still felt a loss somewhere along the way. I would have had it in my head forever that I didn’t do it as a county player. And that I could have done it."