Shefflin to rescue
Kilkenny ace set for return as Larkin and Dalton face bans
Published 03/05/2011 | 05:00
Kilkenny are bracing themselves for a double disciplinary blow that could see them without Eoin Larkin and John Dalton for their Leinster championship semi-final next month.
But there could be some consolation for the Cats as speculation is growing that Henry Shefflin will be back in competitive action this month and may even be ready to line out for the county in that match on June 11.
Shefflin's career was threatened by a second cruciate injury last summer but he came through a full training session with the county last week.
The Ballyhale star returned to training with his club three weeks ago and it is believed he is targeting the third round of the county championship, at the end of this month, for his long-awaited competitive return.
If his comeback stays on course, it couldn't be more timely because Kilkenny, who have been bedevilled by injuries all season, are struggling badly for a scoring threat and leadership in his absence.
Meanwhile, Kilkenny are steeling themselves for some serious disciplinary repercussions in the fallout from their thrashing by Dublin.
Larkin was sent off and, depending on the report of referee Michael Wadding, will be suspended for either four or eight weeks. Striking "with minimal force" is a Category 2 offence which carries a four-week ban, but Category 3 includes "striking with hurley either with force or causing injury" and carries an eight-week suspension. It remains to be seen how his pull on Conor McCormack is interpreted.
Dalton's actions just before half-time, which were not seen by the referee, look likely to attract an eight-week ban on the basis of video evidence. Category 3 covers both kicking and striking "with force" and Dalton may have a case to answer after an off-the-ball incident with McCormack.
Kilkenny are due to play the winners of Antrim/Laois/Wexford in six weeks' time so four-week bans would not affect them. Eight-week suspensions would see the players back for the Leinster final on July 3. Two of Kilkenny's big-name absentees -- Tommy Walsh and Richie Power -- are expected to line out in the second round of the club championship next weekend, but JJ Delaney, who is suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury, will miss out for Fenians.
Fears remain that John Tennyson, whose cruciate-enforced absence at centre-back has forced such a reshuffling of Kilkenny's defence, may not make it back until very late this summer.
Elsewhere, Dublin are hoping to have their opening championship match against Offaly on May 29 moved from Parnell Park to Croke Park.
Dublin chairman Andy Kettle said: "We don't think Parnell Park would hold the crowd -- 9,500 to 10,000 is the maximum you will get into Parnell. There were a lot more Dublin fans than that in Croke Park, and now there are probably a lot more wanting to see the Dublin hurlers."