McDonald has college hopes despite league injury blow
INJURED Wexford hurling star Conor McDonald is unlikely to return before the third round of the Allianz Hurling League but is battling hard to get back earlier, especially for his college.
The high-fielding full-forward was one of the stars for Liam Dunne's young team last year who sensationally ousted Clare en route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals. His season got off to a bad start when he suffered a chipped bone and ligament damage in his ankle in mid-January while lining out for UCD, against Wexford, in the Walsh Cup.
He was in a recovery boot for a couple of weeks but is now off crutches and back doing rehab in the hope of making the earliest possible return.
McDonald will definitely miss Wexford's 1B opener against Antrim and looks unlikely also to make their second round against Offaly yet could make their home game against Limerick on March 8.
But with UCD playing the University of Limerick in the independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-finals next Tuesday, the Naomh Eanna forward is hoping to get back earlier.
He still hasn't given up hope of playing some part for the Belfield college if they get through to the last four of the colleges' competition, whose semi-finals and final take place on the weekend of February 27-28.
"It's very hard to know how long it will take to get back but I'm back doing rehab on the bike and hope to be back jogging next week," McDonald said.
He was still only a minor when he got a late season call-up from Liam Dunne two summers ago and he doesn't turn 20 until next September. Liam Dunne has named fit-again Tomas Waters as captain and included former footballer Daithi Waters for his team against Antrim which includes Paudie Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn) and Kevin Foley (Rapparees).
Elsewhere, Cork, with only Jamie Coughlan, Stephen McDonnell and Shane O'Neill currently unavailable, have named a strong team for their league opener against Kilkenny, including 12 of their starters in last year's All-Ireland semi-final.
Galway, who are without Joe Canning and Joe Cooney, will start six of last year's U-21s for their Division 1A opener against Clare.
Padraig Brehony, Johnny Glynn and Dean Higgins make up the half-forward line, Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn are in the forwards and there is a league debut for John Hanbury at corner-back.
CORK (SH v Kilkenny) - A Nash; D Cahalane, C Joyce, C O'Sullivan; C Murphy, M Ellis, A Walsh; D Kearney, P Cronin; P Harnedy, B Cooper, C Lehane; A Cadogan, P O'Sullivan, P Cronin.
GALWAY (SH v Clare) - C Callanan; J Hanbury, F Moore, R Burke; G McInerney, D Collins, P Mannion; I Tannian, J Cooney; P Brehony, J Glynn, D Higgins; J Regan, J Flynn, C Mannion.
WEXFORD (SH v Antrim) - M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, C Kenny; P Foley, L Chin, D Redmond; P Morris, G Sinnott; I Byrne, D Waters, D O'Keeffe; K Foley, J Guiney, L Og McGovern.
Limerick (SH v Waterford) - N Quaid; S Walsh, R McCarthy, S Hickey; D O'Grady, W McNamara, T Condon; C King, P Brown; D Hannon, G O'Mahony, C Lynch; D Reidy, D Breen, A Breen.