KILKENNY were boosted ahead of Sunday's Division 1 Allianz Hurling League final against Dublin with the return of two key defenders to club action last weekend.
Half-back stars JJ Delaney and Tommy Walsh, who were sidelined with hamstring and shoulder injuries respectively, both lined out in the first round of the county hurling league.
Richie Hogan proved his fitness, as did Richie Power, who played a full game for Carrickshock, raising hopes for his first inter-county action this season after surgery.
The Cats have somehow managed to get to the Division 1 final despite a serious injury crisis.
Aidan Fogarty (broken ankle) is the latest addition to their long-term absentees list, while Michael Fennelly (hand) and John Dalton (sprained ankle) -- both also injured against Offaly last time out -- will also have to sit it out on Sunday.
Dublin could yet be boosted by the dramatic return of talented centre-back Joey Boland. The Na Fianna star was not expected to see any more league action this season after damaging a metatarsal bone against Galway. He missed out for the Dubs' final two games against Kilkenny and Cork but is believed to have made a quick recovery and could yet play a part.
Several more Dublin players are also expected to come back into the reckoning. Alan McCrabbe and Maurice O'Brien made their long-awaited returns off the bench last time out and David Treacy, back after a cruciate injury lay-off, was among their unused subs that day.
Liam Rushe's progress is another whose progress is being closely monitored this week. He was ruled out of the last round with a shoulder injury picked up while on warm-weather training abroad.
Elsewhere, Galway's hurlers have received a pre-championship boost with the return of experienced defender Fergal Moore (Turloughmore) to club action last weekend after his long lay-off with an ankle injury.
Ger Farragher also returned from injury to shoot 0-7 for Castlegar after coming on as a 40th-minute sub in the same game, while Kerril Wade laid down a marker for a Galway recall as he hit 1-11 for Sarsfields in a 1-18 to 0-18 victory over St Thomas.