Injury crisis a huge concern for Cats - Delaney
Kilkenny great JJ Delaney admits that Kilkenny have a lot of surgery to do on their side as their injuries continue to mount up.
With the championship coming into view, All-Star goalkeeper Eoin Murphy is the latest to join the injury list alongside Conor Delaney, Cillian Buckley and key forward Richie Hogan.
"It's the spine of your team is nearly gone there," Delaney said. "Goalkeeper, full-back, centre-back, maybe centre-forward. Yeah, we could do without it."
Delaney tipped Huw Lalor to take the number three shirt for their Leinster SHC opener against Dublin next month and believes the Cats are best served by having Pádraig Walsh at wing-back.
"I'd prefer to see him (Walsh) in the half-back line. Huw done well, even on John Conlon down the Clare. He managed him fairly well. John Conlon at the moment is probably the pick of the full-forwards out there, him and Seamie Callanan.
"So I would give Huw a go there if Conor is not back and leave Pádraig out on the wing there.
"Pádraig hits a lot of ball at wing-back. He gets a couple of points as well. He's too important for this Kilkenny team going forward.
"Dublin are coming to Nowlan Park, you seen what happened last year. Your home games - you have to win them. You have to win every single one of them. And if they don't win that one, they have to go down to Wexford Park and get a result down there as well, which is going to be really tough.
"So it's vitally important that they hit the ground running. Because you seen what Dublin did in the league.
"They can play tactically, they can play with a sweeper, they can play 15 on 15. Interesting to see what they bring to the table as well."
The return of the Ballyhale contingent will boost the Cats but Delaney expects Brian Cody to name just two starters from the All-Ireland club champions with club hurler of the year Adrian Mullen to be held in reserve.
"Realistically, you'll have two starters: Colin and TJ. Joey could get himself into the reckoning as well. I don't think Adrian Mullen will start.
"He's definitely an option for the last ten minutes. When the whole thing is a bit loose, he could come on a get a few scores.
"It's a bit too soon for him. Ballyhale went a bit too well for his own personal development.
"You'd like to have seen him get a few league games (with Kilkenny) to see how he'd get on; because of Ballyhale, you couldn't get those league games under his belt.
"But it's too soon for him to start a championship game. He's a great option to come on."