Hickey looks primed to make long-awaited Cats comeback
Noel Hickey will almost certainly make his long-awaited comeback for Kilkenny on Sunday when they travel to the Gaelic Grounds to face relegation-bound Limerick.
Hickey has not played competitively for Kilkenny since the 2008 All-Ireland final win over Waterford, but when the team for Limerick is named tonight the Dunnamaggin man could be named. If not, he will at least see some action.
Since the 2008 championship he has been plagued by injuries -- knee and groin -- which forced him out of last year's championship.
However, he has been making strong progress over the last few weeks and the Kilkenny management now feel they are in a position to recommence his inter-county career. Hickey has been one of the cornerstones of the Kilkenny defence throughout the last decade and they have not always looked as secure in his absence.
JJ Delaney stepped into the No 3 shirt for last year's championship and so far in the league Brian Hogan has been the most regular full-back. Michael Kavanagh is also back in training after taking an extended break in the wake of St Lachtain's All-Ireland intermediate success. But Kavanagh is not expected to be involved against Limerick. Kilkenny are slowly but surely returning to full strength after being without so many key players in the earlier part of the league. Henry Shefflin has, however, been afforded more time off after Ballyhale's All-Ireland club triumph last month.
Meanwhile, Limerick County Board is understood to be planning one last-ditch attempt to entice some of the disaffected players who won't play for Justin McCarthy back.
They are trying to organise a meeting between the players, Board officials, Board delegates from the players' respective clubs and members of the management.
Last weekend a line appeared to be drawn under the crisis when McCarthy made contact with all 23 players, 11 of whom refuse to play for him in reaction to the dropping of the other 12.
None of the players who left took up his invitation to return, though the call, however late, was appreciated by some of those that took it. The Limerick Board are hoping now to build on that communication and the positive performance against Offaly on Sunday and entice at least some of the disaffected party back.