AS hundreds of footballers are gearing up for Saturday’s big kick-off in the Fermanagh and Western League they should perhaps spare a thought for Strathroy Harps player Mark Sloan.
Sloan, who as Harps skipper lifted the Mulhern Cup back in May, suffered a serious leg break in a friendly the weekend before last, and is likely to be sidelined for much of the season.
Not only is the injury a hammer blow for the player himself but it’s a considerable setback for Harps who have their sights firmly fixed on regaining the Division One title won last season by Lisbellaw.
Sloan has won every possible honour in the local game including Mercer League, Mulhern Cup and Irish Junior Cup medals and has been a permanent fixture in the Harps line-up for the past six seasons.
The Harps skipper admitted it had been a difficult few days, physically and emotionally, especially Tuesday, the day of the Kennedy Cup Final charity curtain-raiser at Crawford’s Lane, Dromore.
Sloan watched his team-mates triumph 2-1 in a showpiece final that was blown up seven minutes early following a serious injury to Lisbellaw defender Gareth Carrothers.
“Emotionally I was alright until today,” he told the Herald afterwards.
“I knew there was a match coming up. I’m Strathroy through and through and I knew when I’d come up and watch the boys I’d be a wee bit emotional.
“I suppose I wasn’t too bad, it’s something I’m going have to get used to.
“I hadn’t missed a game in six years and now unfortunately I’ll have to watch from the sidelines. I suppose I’ll see a different side to it and hopefully I can be of use to Seamus (Fanthorpe) if needed.”
Last season Harps surrendered their Division One crown to Lisbellaw United and the straight-talking skipper shouldered some of the responsibility for his side finishing second best.
By his own admission, Sloan said he had allowed his fitness levels to drop below the standard required and during the close season had taken significant steps to get himself “back in shape.”
“I got a head of steam up and lost a stone there,” he added.
“On a personal level I knew I needed to get back to a place I hadn’t been in a couple of years if I’m honest.
“I knew myself I needed to go down that road and get myself back to the fitness levels I had the time we won the Junior Cups. I let myself down last season because I was carrying a wee bit too much weight.
“I got a head start but unfortunately this happened.”
The good news for Harps is that, providing all goes well, Sloan is already set his sights on a comeback early in the new year.
“I broke the leg in two places. It was an awkward challenge more than anything else,” he continued.
“I knew right away that it was broke. There was nothing I could do but wait for the paramedics to come.
“Thankfully I got in for the operation last Monday and now the recovery process begins.
“Hopefuly I’ll be back after Christmas again fighting fit and lifting more trophies.”
On Tuesday evening’s encounter he added, “It wasn’t a great game. We got the result but it’s a pity it ended on that sad note with the injury to young Carrothers.”
Strathroy Harps are holding a fund-raising draw for Mark at Saturday’s evening club BBQ at the Glebe Bar. Tickets can be purchased at the bar.
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