Clare injury blow as O'Donovan set to miss season
CLARE'S hurlers look set for a big defensive reshuffle after losing key corner-back Donal O'Donovan to a back injury ahead of next weekend's Munster semi-final against Tipperary.
They will also be forced to make changes at midfield as Liam Markham is out with a broken finger.
Darach Honan is suffering from a groin injury, but he is expected to be ready and looks likely to start, after coming off the bench and causing havoc against Limerick in the Division 2 league final when he scored 1-1.
"There's a few fellas carrying niggles and we're not sure if they'll make the whole 70 minutes so we will probably have to reshuffle things," admitted manager Ger O'Loughlin. "However, we don't want to disturb our pattern too much."
But O'Loughlin conceded that O'Donovan is a massive loss, not just for this weekend but probably for the rest of the season, after a scan confirmed a disc problem.
"Donal's had problems with his back for a while and he's a really big loss because he was one of our strongest players against Limerick and had slotted well into what was a problem area for us," O'Loughlin said.
Losing their best corner-back couldn't have come at a worse time as the Banner prepare to face Tipperary's lethal full-forward line -- Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett scored 2-9 between them against Cork first day out.
O'Loughlin says that Clare were devastated at losing their league final to a late Limerick rally, including a spectacular Kevin Downes goal.
"Winning the Division 2 title was a main objective so we were fairly shattered by it, especially as we had that game in our control," he said. "But we just had to get over it and set ourselves a new goal.
"And they don't come any bigger than Tipperary -- they're the best team in the country right now."
"This is where we want to be. We were complaining during the league that we wanted to be playing at a higher level. We've certainly got that now so it's up to the lads to meet that standard.
"I'm just hoping that they will go out and express themselves. There's no pressure on us at all."
Brendan Bugler, who didn't play in the league final, was selected at centre-back in a challenge match against Cork last week and there is speculation that O'Loughlin may yet make changes at full-back and centre-back, as well as the enforced one in the left corner of defence for Sunday's mammoth challenge.
Tipperary have no significant injury worries and there is growing speculation that they could have All Star midfielder Brendan Maher back on their bench.
Maher, the reigning Young Hurler of the Year, who won senior and U-21 All-Ireland medals within a week of one another last autumn, suffered a broken ankle in mid-March in a freak accident while pucking about at home.
The injury was expected to keep him out of the Munster championship, even if Tipperary reached the final. However, he did the warm-up with his team-mates when they played Cork and acted as water-boy for the team.
He returned to training with his club Borrisoleigh the next day and has been doing light training since. There is now speculation that he could be back on Tipp's bench next weekend, even though he hasn't even hurled competitively with the club yet.
Elsewhere, Cork midfielder Lorcan McLoughlin, who helped the Rebels dominate that area against Tipp, looks set to miss the qualifier against Laois next weekend after fracturing his thumb playing for Kanturk in the local IHC last weekend.