For the first time in many years, Cavan seniors will start the National League without Rory Dunne in the number three jersey – or at least somewhere on the match day squad.
The Redhills man, widely regarded as the best Cavan full-back of his generation, has been plagued by a painful groin injury for over nine months and, he explained this week, he has been forced to withdraw from the Cavan panel while he recovers full fitness.
“It was around the end of the National League last year my groin started to get sore and then there were a few club games in the space of a few weeks and then it just started getting progressively sorer and sorer,” the former Cavan U21 captain told The Anglo-Celt this week.
“I didn't really think too much of it at the time but then I flagged it four or five weeks before the start of the Ulster Championship. I doidn't think it was as serious as it was, I tried to get on top of it then but in the space of a few weeks it just got worse and worse.
“No matter how much rehab I did, it just wasn't getting any better. Then that led into the qualifiers and I was never going to make the qualifiers at all.
“It led into the club championship then and I lined out for Redhills even though I was really just making up the numbers, I wasn't any benefit whatsoever because I wasn't fit to run properly.
“So I played the club championship but I was no addition to the team and since September I've been rehabbing it non-stop.
“It is getting better but I thought it would have been a lot better by now. It's still kind of catching me a bit at times so I don't really have a time frame at the moment, I'm just rehabbing it and hoping it will continue to get better.”
Above: Rory Dunne after picking up the Cavan Player of the Year award in 2015.
The Redhills clubman, who turns 29 next month, made his Cavan senior debut under Donal Keogan in 2008. He admits that the recent injury has been extremely frustrating.
“It's really annoying, especially when this time two years ago I was in the same boat with my ankle. It's really frustrating when you're doing all the rehab and when you don't see progress, it gets really annoying. But look, that's the way it is. I just want to get it right, I don't want to take one step forward and two steps back.”
For the full story, see this week's print issue.