James Horan says Cillian O'Connor is almost certain to miss the entirety of this year's football championship. Mayo's key forward suffered an Achilles tendon injury during his side's victory against Clare on June 13th. He underwent a procedure last week.
"Cillian is out for the foreseeable future. That will probably be the season," said Horan on Wednesday at the announcement of Eirgrid's five-year partnership extension as the GAA's official timing sponsor.
"He had a procedure on his Achilles, so there'll be quite a bit of rehab with it.
"[He] just went to push off, and it just went. Just one of those bizarre, bizarre things."
Horan listed several options - Paul Towey, Ryan O'Donoghue, Conor Loftus, Jason Doherty, and Darren Coen - who can fill O'Connor's free-taking role, and added that he does not expect the 29-year-old's absence to change the "key principles" of how Mayo play.
James Horan, Mayo Senior Football manager, pictured as EirGrid announced a five-year partnership extension for the GAA Official Timing Sponsorship. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
O'Connor has been an influential figure not just on the pitch for Mayo, but off it. Horan said the Ballintubber man will have a "huge role to play" this summer and "will definitely be involved in some capacity".
Cillian O'Connor injury not a disaster for Mayo
"It's disappointing for Cillian for sure, but it's by no means a disaster," said the Mayo manager.
"Cillian would be the first [to say] that if someone else is injured, you know, 'Who is going to be the guy that's going to push up or step up or take it on?' He'd be the first on that. That's the way it is.
"At the higher level, the level we're trying to play at, it's an opportunity for someone who has been maybe knocking on the door to go in there now.
"What a great role model they had in the way Cillian plays the game, that they can learn from that. I'd be confident in what we've seen from training since [that] we have a number of guys pushing incredibly hard. So yeah, from every crisis comes opportunity."
Mayo open their Connacht Championship campaign this weekend with a quarter-final against Sligo at Markievicz Park. Horan said he does not have any other major injury concerns.
"Diarmuid (O'Connor) came off in the Clare game and is pushing well, he's very close. Diarmuid was just at full tilt chasing a guy and just tweaked the hammer a little bit. Nothing too major. You expect some of those throughout a season when you have 30, 35 guys involved and pushing hard. That's just run of the mill stuff.
"Jason Doc, training very well with us, so pushing very hard as well. Brendan Harrison, again pushing very hard, he has a couple of games with his club under his belt. The last two are some of the longer term injuries we've had. So we have a pretty good group to pick from.
"Obviously you'd love 100 per cent selection but our medical are doing a fantastic job under crazy conditions in one way when you think about what they're going through to keep players [fit] in such a short season."
Picture credit: Sportsfile
EirGrid, the state-owned company that manages and develops Ireland's electricity grid to deliver a cleaner energy future, is now in its sixth year as the Official Timing Partner of the GAA.