Larkin the latest injury concern for Kilkenny
TOTEMIC Kilkenny wing-back Tommy Walsh is facing a race against time to make Sunday's Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final against Dublin.
The Cats will definitely be without Richie Power and also have some late injury doubts about the versatile Eoin Larkin.
Hopes were high that Walsh would be ready for his comeback from a shoulder injury after he played a full game for his club last weekend, but manager Brian Cody said yesterday: "I'm not certain if Tommy's going to be able to play next Sunday."
And he admitted that Larkin, who went off with a dead leg in a club game last Sunday, is a new worry. Power, who had surgery last winter, was also expected to make his first appearance of the year after coming through a club game last weekend, but Cody has definitely ruled him out.
When the sides drew in their regular league meeting earlier this year, both Walsh and JJ Delaney were missing from Kilkenny's vaunted half-back line and Larkin lined out in midfield. The Cats have also lost Michael Fennelly and Aidan Fogarty in what has been an injury-plagued season.
The Dubs, chasing a first title in 72 years, have been given a considerable boost by the news that centre-back Joey Boland will definitely be ready and that Liam Rushe is also likely to play some part, after recovering from foot and shoulder injuries respectively.
Kilkenny's fallibility in last year's All-Ireland final has raised speculation that the chasing pack has finally caught up with modern hurling's pacemakers, but Cody said they don't indulge in such hype.
"We were never anywhere else but in the pack as far as I'm concerned," he said. "There's a group of six or seven counties there that are always in the hunt and have the ability to win an All-Ireland final. I'm certain that Dublin are one of those now.
"I'm not saying that because we're playing them next Sunday, I'm saying it because I believe it. There's terrific potential there. What has happened for the past few years is that they've hit a day when they just didn't perform.
"Like last year against us (in Leinster) they had a 19-point defeat and they were beaten by Antrim in the qualifiers. Those were setbacks that tended to happen. They mixed that with some great displays on other days and I don't think those defeats are going to be happening any more."
Dublin boss Anthony Daly, meanwhile, has been telling his players to throw caution to the wind in their bid to make history.
"Hopefully the lads can come into it with a sense of freedom and say, look, what have we to lose?" Daly said. "They need to play with a bit of freedom and go and hurl and go to the ball.
"There's nothing worse than standing off and doing nothing, because you will definitely be annihilated then. We have to have the courage of our convictions and go for the thing."
Meanwhile, Limerick manager Donal O'Grady has not been afraid to give youth its chance, starting teenage wing-forward Declan Hannon in the Division 2 final against Clare tomorrow which now has a 6.30 throw-in in Ennis.
Hannon starred for Ard Scoil Ris for the last two years and is only doing his Leaving Cert this summer but has played several times in the league when his school commitments allowed.
O'Grady has made only one change from the side that beat Antrim last time out, with captain Gavin O'Mahony returning at full-back to replace Stephen Lucey.
But one absence is Andrew O'Shaughnessy who announced his retirement this week and O'Grady said he will be hard to replace, describing him as "a player who always made the right decisions at the right time."
Limerick Team in factfile