Fennelly back in Cats training and 'six or seven weeks' away from playing
Kilkenny have received a huge pre-championship boost with the news that 2011 Hurler of the Year Michael Fennelly has resumed collective training with the Cats.
But the eight-time All-Ireland senior medallist has warned that he's still "six or seven weeks" off returning to full pace, and has "a long way to go" as he targets an inter-county hurling return, following serious injury.
That leaves Fennelly facing a race against time to feature in a potential Leinster semi-final against Wexford on June 10, presuming Davy Fitzgerald's Slaneysiders account for round-robin opposition at the quarter-final stage.
Fennelly, 32, was speaking last night at an event to mark the redevelopment of the Lahart's Skoda dealership in Kilkenny.
The Ballyhale Shamrocks powerhouse admitted that his recovery from an Achilles tendon rupture sustained against Waterford in last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay has been a slow process. Fennelly said: "It's about eight months since the operation at the end of August.
"I'm back doing a small bit of hurling this week but I'm a good maybe six, seven weeks off being back to full pace. The last number of weeks and months has just been the gym, running constantly. It's a slow process, a slow burn."
He added that this week marked the "first time with the hurl and helmet really on me".
Fennelly also admitted that Brian Cody's Kilkenny are currently in a transitional phase, and "can't sustain what we've done over the last number of years".
He said: "We haven't been winning U21s or minors the last couple of years. We have been strong in the colleges and schools, which is good, but it hasn't transferred to the U21s, which is worrying to be honest."
Fennelly added: "For me, Tipperary have the strength in depth still. They can afford five players to play bad and bring on five more with the same quality that went off. It's very difficult for any other team to have that."
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