By Rory Houston - @RTESundayGame
Sligo manager Kevin Walsh has challenged his team to prove they can cope without star forward David Kelly when they meet Leitrim in the Connacht Senior Football Championship in Markievicz Park on Sunday.
Kelly picked up an ankle injury playing for DCU in the Sigerson Cup earlier in the year and will miss the encounter because of surgery on the knock.
Walsh told RTÉ.ie: 'Any team that loses the likes of David Kelly will take it as a blow. The one thing is it didn’t come overnight and we are well prepared for it. The players aren’t looking around to see whether or not David will be togging out.
'He’ll have to spend a few weeks to get himself right and when he’s right, he is right. This is what the panel is for and I suppose it will test the Sligo team to see how much the panel has picked up in the last few years.
'Hopefully whoever gets in there will see it as a great opportunity for themselves. You have to get on with these sort of things and that is what we will do.'
Sligo have been handed a favourable draw in Connacht this year, with the winner of this match set to come up against Roscommon and so avoiding the traditional big guns of the province, Galway and Mayo.
The Yeatsmen will go into this weekend’s match as firm favourites, particularly with the game taking place in Sligo, but Walsh feels that will not be a huge factor on the day.
He said: 'Last year Galway had a home tie with Sligo and that was supposed to be in favour of them. It is just the way it goes.
'There is a lot that depends on mentality going into a game. We have the home advantage but I would certainly be hoping that everyone pulls their weight on the day and that the full 15 of full 20 or whatever gets on gives it their all.'
Without a victory in Connacht since 2008, Leitrim will have to produce a huge effort if they are to advance this summer. There were signs in this year’s Allianz league that Mickey Moran’s men had grown since their five-point loss against Roscommon last year and Walsh is wary of the threat they will pose.
'There is no doubt about it [that Leitrim have improved]. In the last two league games they were still hunt for promotion and brought Longford and Roscommon to within a point or two.
'They will be keen and hungry for success. They will be giving it their all.
'This will be a measure of how much our players have improved, how much they have learned from last year and how much they have taken from the league.'