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I'll Doo without Connor.

Byline: By MICHAEL SCULLY

DEFENDING champions Drogheda United are planning to be without goalkeeper Dan Connor for the first two months of the new eircom FAI Premier League season.

Boynesiders boss Paul Doolin fears that Connor could miss up to 10 games for the champions between Setanta Sports Cup and eircom League commitments.

Nominated for the eircom SWAI Goalkeeper of the Year award last term, Connor admits that his hip problem required surgery.

"It's disappointing to miss the start of the season, of course, but it had got to the stage where I couldn't play on," said Connor, who turned 27 yesterday.

"I was never 100 per cent fit last season so while I am disappointed, it'll be great to get back to training in top shape. I've been told April or May, so that's what I'm working towards."

Connor spent last season taking hip injections to get through matches and club physio Albert Byrne last night acknowledged that it was a "miracle" that the former Ireland underage international managed to last the season.

But Connor's efforts helped Drogheda to their first-ever top-flight title - and he then went to Cambridge at the start of December to visit renowed specialist Richard Villar.

In fact Villar confirmed that the problem was worse than the club feared.

"The surgery revealed he had a torn ligament in his hip, and the damage was worse than we first thought," said Connor.

"This has lengthened his recovery time, but we're confident Dan will be back to his best. He has started his rehab and now it's just a matter of wait and see."

Doolin will now turn to Mikko Vilmunen, who impressed in last season's Setanta Sports Cup final.

But with only 18-year-old Cian Byrne as backup, he may also look to sign another net-minder in the short term. Pat Jennings, who has just been released from Derry City, could be a target.

Connor, though, is just hoping that by the time he returns, Drogheda will have made a strong start to the new term.

CAPTION(S):

SURGERY: Dan Connor; TARGET: Pat Jennings
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 1, 2008
Words:347
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