BY CHRIS MCNULTY
KARL Lacey, the 2012 Footballer of the Year, will be sidelined for three months after undergoing surgery to correct a hip injury last Saturday.
The Four Masters man is understood to have played through the pain barrier in the All-Ireland final and in his club’s subsequent championship run having initially picked up the injury in the All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.
Four-time All-Star Lacey, who is Donegal’s most decorated footballer of all time, will now be sidelined until the latter stages of the National League campaign. The April 7th clash with Dublin in Ballybofey seems a likely target for the Donegal town native, but the Ulster Championship game against Tyrone will be where the focus of his recovery will be honed in on.
After going under the knife on Saturday, Lacey was advised by his surgeon not to travel to Dublin for the RTE Sports Awards the following night.
Lacey – branded a ‘Rolls Royce of a defender’ by McGuinness – had been nominated for the Sports Personality of the Award – which was won by boxer Katie Taylor. Donegal won the Team of the Year accolade – which was decided on by a public vote. Mark McHugh and Jim McGuinness accepted the award.
Earlier in the show, McGuinness explained Lacey’s predicament to the presenter Darragh Maloney.
“I wasn’t happy that he had the surgery, but that’s what has to happen,” said the Donegal manager.
“It is going to keep him out for 12 to 14 weeks, so it is fairly significant.
“I spoke to him before we came into the awards and he’s doing good. He’s lying up relaxing and is being taken good care of.”
Donegal’s McKenna Cup campaign begins on January 9th with an away game against Fermanagh in Enniskillen, though none of the marquee names will be in action during the pre-season competition. The McKenna Cup will see Donegal field a largely under 21 squad with peripheral squad members also seeing action, before the big guns are wheeled out against for the National League joust with Kildare on February 2nd in Croke Park.
This Sunday, Donegal jet off for the team’s holiday in Dubai, where they will be until January 8th.
Kilcar duo Mark McHugh and Patrick McBrearty are unable to travel due to college exams, while Frank McGlynn will also be absent – his wife, Diane, gave birth to their second child just recently.
McGuinness, meanwhile, has praised Donegal’s supporters and says that the success achieved in the last two years was for those who had stuck by the team in its darkest days.
He said: “Donegal supporters had a lot of very tough days, days were expectations were very high and we were crushed on the big day.
“When we won Ulster last year it was a milestone. The stepping stone gave us confidence and gave the supporters something to celebrate after waiting so long for some success.”