THERE is heavy speculation that Henry Shefflin will play some part in tomorrow's historic All-Ireland hurling qualifier against Tipperary, despite not being named in the match-day squad last night.
In the immediate aftermath of last weekend's defeat by Dublin, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody ruled out any hope of his trio of injured stars – Shefflin, Michael Fennelly or Paul Murphy – being ready this week, and none were included in last night's team selection.
But there is a strong belief locally that 'King Henry' will be sprung at some stage in a dramatic bid by the All-Ireland champions to hold onto their crown.
A combination of injuries has meant that the Ballyhale legend has not played once for Kilkenny this year and, though he is not match- sharp, the stakes are so high that he could be called upon.
The Cats are facing their arch-enemies in a game that pits the last two teams to win All-Irelands against one another in a sell-out back-door collision in Nowlan Park, and Kilkenny may have to roll the dice.
It is understood that both Shefflin and Murphy did a substantial amount of training this week, and took part in backs-versus-forwards internal games.
The only changes officially made from the Dublin defeat are that Lester Ryan replaces Cillian Buckley in midfield, and Colin Fennelly comes in for TJ Reid, who is believed to be carrying a knock but is included on the bench.
Tipp have gone for experience in their four changes from the side that suffered a shock loss to Limerick in the Munster semi-final.
Conor O'Brien replaces the injured Kieran Bergin at wing-back, while John O'Dwyer, Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett form a new-look full-forward line at the expense of Pa Bourke, Shane Bourke and Seamus Callanan.
KILKENNY (SH v Tipperary) – E Murphy; C Fogarty, JJ Delaney, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, K Joyce; M Rice, L Ryan; W Walsh, R Power, E Larkin; C Fennelly, R Hogan, A Fogarty. Subs: D Herity, P Hogan, P Walsh, R Doyle, TJ Reid, M Ruth, G Aylward, W Phelan, M Kelly, J Brennan, B Kennedy.
TIPPERARY – B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Curran, M Cahill; C O'Brien, C O'Mahony, Padraic Maher; B Maher, S McGrath; Patrick Maher, N McGrath, J O'Brien; J O'Dwyer, E Kelly, L Corbett.