Saturday 24 February 2018

King Henry ready for 'run' against Dubs

Henry Shefflin
Henry Shefflin
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The Kilkenny hurling management look set to preserve Henry Shefflin's amazing record of consistency in championship hurling despite concerns over his sharpness for Saturday's Leinster semi-final against Dublin.

Shefflin has recovered from a shoulder operation which has kept him out of the game for the last eight months.

But with only two club games and less than four weeks of full training behind him, the Kilkenny management must weigh up whether to involve their most prized asset on the back of such little preparation.

Shefflin has started every one of Kilkenny's 56 championship matches since making his championship debut against Westmeath -- Brian Cody's first game in charge -- in the 1999 Leinster championship.

It is an incredible sequence of appearances since then from Shefflin which has really only come under pressure in the build-up to the 2010 All-Ireland final defeat to Tipperary when intensive treatment of a cruciate ligament tear, sustained in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, put him back in line for selection against the odds.

He lasted only 12 minutes against Tipperary that day as the same knee gave way again and forced him into a second cruciate operation.

The logical thinking would be that once Shefflin was available Brian Cody would always select him.

But with so little preparation there has to be concerns over the sharpness of even Shefflin for such an important match.

Twelve months ago, Shefflin returned from that second cruciate ligament operation against Wexford in the Leinster semi-final and while Dublin is a match of much higher intensity, Shefflin is likely to make his return at the same stage again.

Richie Power is also back in the frame after suffering medial ligament damage in a club game at the end of April.

Power didn't train over the weekend but isn't thought to be a doubt for Saturday.

Michael Fennelly, who tore ankle ligaments in the league final, is making better than expected progress and has been running at training over the last week without participating in match situations. This match looks like it is too soon for him but his return looks like it will be just inside the original 10 week time frame.

Michael Rice is another who won't be considered as his knee troubles continue.

The continued absence of Fennelly and Rice has thrown up the prospect of John Tennyson resuming his inter-county career, after an extensive lay-off with a cruciate ligament injury, at midfield.

It is an option that Kilkenny have been looking at though T J Reid is the more likely partner for Paddy Hogan at midfield with Shefflin coming into the half-forward line along with Power.

With the exception of Fennelly, however, Kilkenny will have their entire league team in addition to having Shefflin, Power and Noel Hickey back.

Hickey has recovered from a hamstring injury, the same injury that has troubled the up-and-coming Cillian Buckley in recent weeks. Buckley limped out of training last week and will have to come through tomorrow night's Leinster U-21 match in Nowlan Park against Wexford if he is to feature at some stage against Dublin.

Dublin have Alan McCrabbe, Ryan O'Dwyer and Ross O'Carroll available again after recent injuries and with a game behind Tomas Brady, Stephen Hiney and Conal Keaney, the 2011 league champions are well placed to give Kilkenny their stiffest examination in the province since Galway in 2009.

Irish Independent

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