Niall Darby, left, celebrating Offaly's recent win over New York with Jordan Hayes.
NIALL Darby's season has been ended after he suffered the curse of the modern GAA player, the dreaded cruciate injury.
While he has to get a scan yet and that will determine the extent of it, he stated on Wednesday morning that he is certain that it is a cruciate injury.
Darby picked up his injury at training on Tuesday night. It deals Offaly an immediate blow as he is now out of Sunday's Tailteann Cup semi-final against Westmeath and the final if they get there while the implications for the player and his club, Rhode are profound.
Darby had been in excellent form in the Offaly defence this year, playing with great drive and leadership as well as getting forward to score a couple of times. He is one of Offaly's longest serving players and is one of a golden generation of Rhode footballers – he has won eleven Senior Football Championship medals.
He was the Offaly senior football captain last year and the manner in which he conducts himself on and off the field, the lifestyle he lives has been a great example to all aspiring footballers. He made his Offaly senior football debut in 208 and has played 105 competitive league and championship games since then as well as playing three Tailteann Cup games this year.
He started out life as an attacker but has played mainly in defence for Offaly for the past decade plus, initially on the half back line and most recently as corner back. He is a son of 1982 All-Ireland medal winner, Stephen Darby, a nephew of the goalscoring hero in that final, Seamus and his brother Brian was also a long serving Offaly defender for years.
Cruciate injuries have become increasingly common in the GAA in recent years. They are dreaded by players as they entail a long, arduous, tough, very individual recovery – it is generally a nine months recovery process, though some players get back quicker.
He is the second Offaly footballer to go down with one in a few weeks. Tullamore's Oisin Keenan-Martin, outstanding as Offaly won the All-Ireland U-20 Football Championship in 2021, did his a couple of weeks ago.
Rhode's Eoin Rigney and Edenderry's Cian Farrell missed this season for Offaly senior footballers because of a cruciate injury as did Belmont's Oisin Kelly with Offaly senior hurlers.
There had been speculation that this was going to be Darby's last year as an Offaly footballer and this injury is likely to end his county career. He has been one of Offaly's most committed players and he was playing some of his best football in the past couple of years.
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