Footballer of the year Karl Lacey has declared himself fit for Sunday’s Ulster championship quarter-final against Tyrone having drawn inspiration from Mayo’s Andy Moran on Sunday.
The Donegal centre-back has not played for the All-Ireland champions since last September’s 2-11 to 0-13 win over Mayo at Croke Park having underwent an operation on his hip in December.
Mayo’s talisman Moran missed last year’s final having suffered a cruciate injury in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Down in August but returned to score a goal for James Horan’s team as they hammered Galway 4-16 to 0-11 in their Connacht championship opener on Sunday in Salthill.
“I’ve seen Andy Moran coming back at the weekend and that lifted me even more, to see that you can overcome these injuries and get back to the playing field,” Lacey said. “I’m happy to be doing the same.
“All the rehab was new to me and it was a lonely place to be. When you’re on your side doing stretching or sitting on a sliothar or heading to the pool while the rest of the boys are out playing, it’s tough going.
“But you’ve just got to be patient, believe you will overcome it. And thankfully I’ve been back on the pitch this last few weeks.”
Lacey admitted that had Jim McGuinness’s team paired off with any team other than rivals and All-Ireland contenders Tyrone, his comeback may have been delayed.
“If we had an easier run in maybe Jim might have let me off a wee bit,” Lacey added.
“But he’s been pushing me hard and rightly so. I’ve been pushing myself hard the last few weeks because this is the game. There has been enough talk about it the last couple of months.
“I’d say he has been pushing me on a wee bit hard to get fit for it. It’s a dangerous place to be as well. You have got to be careful and think ahead. Hopefully it’s going to be a long year.
“But you do want to play in the big matches and it’s going to be a sell-out crowd on Sunday. You are playing against Tyrone — one of the best teams in the country. Those are the games you want to be involved in.”
The 28-year-old has played two club games for Four Masters since his comeback as well as lining out in challenge matches for Donegal against both Galway and Roscommon. He believes he’s fit enough for Sunday but will leave that decision down to McGuinness and his assistant Rory Gallagher.
“It’s down to Jim and Rory now, whether they believe I should be looking in or that I’m fit enough for Sunday,” said Lacey. “It’s up to them. We’ve one more training session before Sunday. I’ll give it everything and hopefully that will have me available for selection on Sunday.”