Cork's Pa Cronin faces race to make semi-final after return from freak injury
Cork hurling star Pa Cronin returned to training last Saturday, raising hopes that he may be able to play some part in Sunday's Allianz NHL Division One semi-final.
He has been out for six weeks after suffering a freak injury in training, when he caught his finger in a team-mate's training bib and detached a tendon in it.
It needed surgery and kept Cronin out for much longer than was initially expected but he returned to training last weekend.
That has raised speculation that he may yet be able to play some part against Dublin in the big double-header in Nowlan Park next Sunday but it all depends on how well he comes through training this week.
The Rebels were without a handful of key men when they beat Wexford in the quarter-final two weeks ago. Mark Ellis and Alan Cadogan were hamstrung and Stephen McDonnell was work-tied.
But all three are now back and William Kearney, who came off with a rib injury the last day, is also available again.
Ellis is particularly important as he established himself as Cork's first-choice centre-back last year and it was noticeable that they lost to Tipperary in the last round of the league after he went off injured.
Dublin are also hopeful of having a key defender back themselves in the shape of Michael Carton.
He missed their last two games due to an ankle injury but manager Ger Cunningham confirmed yesterday that he is close to a full recovery.
"Michael is probably 90 to 95 per cent," Cunningham said. "We'd be very hopeful if he comes through training this week and we'll have a good look at him on Wednesday night."
Carton's importance to the team has become even greater since Cunningham took over this year and converted the former wing-back to a new full-back role where he has been extremely impressive.
The Dubs are still without long-term injury victim Joey Boland who is still getting treatment for his Achilles problem and Cunningham said he is "still two or three weeks away from coming back".
Sunday's game promises to be a fascinating one as Cork had a surprisingly emphatic 11-point win (0-34 to 1-20) when the sides met in the earlier rounds back in March.
The Dubs looked uncharacteristically sluggish that night in Croke Park so Cork can expect a backlash and Cunningham, a former Cork selector, also needs no introduction to the Rebels' strengths and weaknesses.
Waterford boss Derek McGrath, meanwhile, was mighty relieved that none of his squad - most of whom were playing championship football of some level last weekend - all came through unscathed for their last-four clash with Tipperary.
The Deise will have Eddie Barrett back fully fit this weekend but will not risk Stephen Daniels even though he has made a lot of progress with his knee injury in the past month.
Coming from Division 1B they have not yet met Tipperary this year and the Premier County have lost two key defenders since beating Offaly in the quarter-finals.
Cathal Barrett is definitely out with a shoulder injury that he suffered on their training trip to Spain over Easter and Kieran Bergin picked up a hand injury in club action last weekend that needed surgery yesterday.