Barrett returns as Tipperary boss Ryan names 12 All Ireland winners to face Wexford
MICHAEL RYAN’S team selection looks to be making a statement of intent ahead of Sunday's Allianz Hurling League semi-final clash with Wexford (4.0) as the Tipp boss names 12 of last year’s All-Ireland-winning side, including the returning Cathal Barrett.
All-Star corner-back Barrett made a 25-minute cameo in their quarter-final rout of Offaly and makes his first start of the year as Ryan keeps faith with the same goalkeeper and defenders who returned Liam MacCarthy to the Premier.
Last year’s captain Brendan Maher returns from injury to take his place at midfield while talented footballer Steven O’Brien is given a chance to impress in the half-forward line beside Niall O’Meara, who impressed against the Faithful with five points from play.
There’s no place for John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer (Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher and Michael Breen are the other two changes from last September’s final) in attack, but the inside line looks potent, featuring the McGrath brothers, Noel and John, as well as Seamus Callanan.
Ryan has made no bones about his desire to win a League title and it promises to be an intriguing sideline battle against charismatic Model manager Davy Fitzgerald.
There’s no place for Limerick captain James Ryan in John Kiely’s side to face Galway for tomorrow’s other semi-final (2.0), but the Treaty still look strong on paper, backboned by a formidable half-back line of Diarmaid Byrnes, Declan Hannon and Seamus Hickey.
Alan Dempsey and William O’Donoghue form a new-look midfield pairing while former All-Star Shane Dowling, Cian Lynch and Gearóid Hegarty will be expected to lead the attack.
Elsewhere, the day of the dual star is struggling in most counties, but it’s not over in Derry as Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers are set to mix hurling and football this summer for the Oak Leafers.
The pair, who led Slaughtneil to a famous Ulster club SFC and SHC double before Christmas, returned to Damian Barton’s football squad for the end of their ill-fated league campaign and have also joined Collie McGurk’s hurlers this week ahead of tomorrow’s Ulster SHC Shield final and next weekend’s Nicky Rackard Cup campaign.
In Dublin, chairman Sean Shanley is confident that performance and lifestyle coach Bernard Dunne will “still give a hand when he’s available” to Jim Gavin’s footballers despite looking set to take over as high performance director of Irish Athletic Boxing Association.
Meanwhile, a knee injury means Caolan Mooney is in a race against time for Down’s Ulster SFC quarter-final against Armagh on June 4 after the former Aussie Rules player picked up a knock while playing for his club Rostrevor last week. It’s not all doom and gloom for Down boss Eamonn Burns, however, as Donal O’Hare has recovered from an ankle injury.
Another AFL recruit, Kerry’s Mark O’Connor, looks set to feature for Geelong’s reserve side this weekend after heading Down Under last November on a professional rookie contract.
O’Connor, one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s 2014 and 2015 All-Ireland minor triumphs under Jack O’Connor, would likely be leading the Kerry U-21 side against Galway today, but his focus is now on the oval ball.
TIPPERARY (SH v Wexford): D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher, P Maher; B Maher, J Forde; D McCormack, N O’Meara, S O’Brien; N McGrath, J McGrath, S Callanan.
LIMERICK (SH v Galway): N Quaid; R English, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Byrnes, D Hannon, S Hickey; A Dempsey, W O’Donoghue; S Dowling, D Dempsey, G Hegarty; C Lynch, K Hayes, G Mulcahy.