Banner injury list a concern as Fitzgerald sets sights on Cork clash
CLARE midfielder Nicky O'Connell is extremely doubtful for Sunday's big Division 1A relegation battle with Cork in Limerick (3.0), while the Banner are also sweating on the status of the versatile Sean Collins.
Both men started in the last round against Tipperary – when Collins was selected at centre-forward – but each was forced off with injury and O'Connell has been troubled by a back problem.
There were local club games in Clare the following day (Easter Monday) and another round of the local league last Saturday.
But neither O'Connell (Clonlara) nor Collins (Cratloe) has lined out for their clubs since the Tipp game, raising concerns about their fitness for the re-match with the Rebels.
The Banner will definitely be without Cathal McInerney, who wasn't ready to start against Tipp and hasn't lined out for his club since.
But one encouraging bit of news for manager Davy Fitzgerald is that flying forward Conor McGrath has played both games for his club (Cratloe) since.
McGrath missed most of Clare's league campaign after hip surgery, but finally made his return off the bench last time out.
And Darach Honan, who like McGrath has undergone hip surgery particularly early in his career, has also played two club games since to sharpen his match fitness.
Cork's main injury worry is Willie Egan, who had to sit out their last game against Kilkenny with a badly bruised hand.
The all-Munster relegation battle has huge significance because not only will it decide who survives in Division 1A, but the sides could yet meet in a Munster semi-final in late June, if Clare get past Waterford on June 2.
Davy Fitzgerald's side pulled off a 1-22 to 1-16 victory at Pairc Ui Rinn when the sides met on St Patrick's weekend.
They struggled badly in the first half when Pa Horgan and Lorcan McLoughlin starred for the Rebels.
But Clare bounced back by hitting 10 unanswered points in a sensational second-half comeback to win on Cork's home turf, when their half-back line of Patrick Donnellan, Brendan Bugler and Patrick O'Connor shone.
The venues and times for all of this weekend's Allianz League hurling finals and relegation play-offs are as follows.
Division 3A final: Donegal v Fingal, 3.45. 3A relegation play-off: Tyrone v Monaghan, 2.0 (both at Kingspan Breffni Park).
Division 1A relegation play-off: Cork v Clare, Limerick, 3.0.
Division 1B relegation play-off: Antrim v Carlow, Navan, 3.0.
Division 2A final: Laois v Westmeath, 3.45. 2A relegation play-off: Wicklow v Kildare, 2.0 (both at Tullamore).
Division 2B final: Meath v London, Newbridge, 1.0. Division 3B final: Longford v Sligo, Carrick-on-Shannon, 3.0.