Irish Daily Mail

COMEBACK KID DOLAN COULD PLAY U-20 FINAL

- By PAUL KEANE

OFFALY U-20 captain Kieran Dolan is on the verge of another epic recovery from injury which could allow him to line out in Sunday’s EirGrid All-Ireland final against Roscommon.

Manager Declan Kelly confirmed that the team skipper is training again and currently available for selection following a hamstring injury that ruled him out of both the wins over Dublin and Cork.

According to Kelly, Dolan’s situation should be clearer following training tonight and while starting him in the county’s biggest game in years may seem like a gamble, the Mucklagh man has come back from worse.

Dolan required neck surgery after a car accident in January 2020, following the county’s Liam O’Connor Cup U-20 final against Clare.

He told this week’s Offaly Express how medics subsequent­ly, ‘got a metal cage and put my neck in it, a neck brace, for 12 weeks or so’.

Dolan continued: ‘I was young and fit and healthy and that’s why I recovered so well. I’m grand now. I was very lucky, I’ve been told that a lot. I was lucky and unlucky. Thank God I was the only one hurt.’

Dolan was back at full speed for this season’s narrow Leinster championsh­ip wins over Wexford and Westmeath but missed the landmark Leinster final win over Dublin and the All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Cork following the hamstring setback. The question now is whether he’ll lead the team out at Croke Park on Sunday.

‘He’s back doing a bit,’ said manager Kelly. ‘We’re having a training session tomorrow night [tonight] and that’ll probably dictate whether he’s in the plans or not. But he is training and he’s in the squad for selection.’

Both of Dolan’s parents hail from Roscommon which neatly underlines the local rivalry that exists between Sunday’s finalists, midlands neighbours. ‘If you head to Shannonbri­dge and that area, there’s no doubt there’s a lot of rivalry down around there, Clonmacnoi­se and those areas,’ said Kelly.

If Dolan can lift the cup, he’ll be the first Offaly U-20/U-21 captain to do so since 1988.

Kelly admitted the hype in the county is huge and said he’s trusting his players to embrace it and to deal with it in the correct way.

‘In fairness to the lads, they are grounded fellas and they know we’ve another game to play,’ he said. ‘From the county perspectiv­e, what you would be hoping is that the young kids, and I’m looking at my own at home, they were at the Leinster final and the All-Ireland semi-final and they said, “Is this what it’s about?” They’d never seen this before, they’d never seen the crowds and the excitement that goes with it. That can only have a positive effect.’

 ??  ?? Boost: Offaly manager Declan Kelly
Boost: Offaly manager Declan Kelly

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