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Frank Roche: Question mark over fitness of O'Neill

SHANE O'NEILL'S readiness for battle against Kilkenny remains shrouded in some doubt, even though the Cork defender has been recalled for Sunday's All-Ireland SHC semi-final against the champions.

All told, manager Denis Walsh has made three changes from the team that struggled to set the world alight against Antrim in the quarter-finals.

O'Neill and Sean Óg Ó hAilpín both sat out the Antrim game because of hamstring injuries sustained at different stages of the two-match Munster final duel with Waterford.

Ó hAilpín's recovery has been flagged well in advance, and he resumes in his customary left half-back role with Ray Ryan dropping to the bench.

O'Neill also returns to the selected line-up at right corner-back - Shane Murphy losing out - but this hasn't stemmed speculation on Leeside that the highly-rated defender won't be able to start. He only resumed full training on Tuesday night.


The third Cork change comes in attack and registers as something of a surprise, given that the player making way -- Paudie O'Sullivan -- was promoted for the Antrim game and responded with a three-point haul from play.

Instead, the selectors have recalled their recognised penalty-taker, Pat Horgan, who was dropped for the quarter-final but has been pushing hard in subsequent training sessions.

Kilkenny boss Brian Cody will announce his team tonight, with James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick tipped to replace Michael Rice at midfield.

The in-form Rice had the plaster removed from his hand earlier this week, after breaking a bone in a club game several weeks back.

John Tennyson - who played a starring role coming off the bench against Galway in the Leinster final - is definitely ruled out with a serious knee injury, so Brian Hogan will continue at centre-back.

CORK (SHC v Kilkenny): D Óg Cusack; S O'Neill, E Cadogan, B Murphy; J Gardiner, R Curran, S Óg Ó hAilpín; T Kenny, C Naughton; M Cussen, K Murphy, N McCarthy; P Horgan, A Ó hAilpín, B O'Connor.