Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly on Kilkenny bench and closer to full fitness
Eoin Larkin and Michael Rice form latest midfield partnership as they take on Waterford
Michael Fennelly: on the bench for Kilkenny at Semple Stadium for this Saturday’s All-Ireland senior hurling qualifier against Waterford. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
The evolution of Kilkenny’s championship campaign is best reflected in the increasing familiarity of Brian Cody’s starting line-up.
There is still no Henry Shefflin or Michael Fennelly, the rocks on which last year’s All-Ireland were built, but both are expected to see game time in tomorrow’s qualifier against Waterford at Semple Stadium.
They are inching closer to match fitness; Shefflin wears 20, Fennelly 21.
Fennelly is the only regular midfielder yet to feature in the championship, having suffered an ankle injury after his brilliant showing in the league final. He did take part in the warm-up before the Tipperary victory last Saturday and has trained in recent days.
With Cillian Buckley also injured, Eoin Larkin and Michael Rice form the latest midfield partnership as Lester Ryan is dropped and Matthew Ruth goes to wing forward.
Richie Power, the one shining light in the Dublin defeat at O’Moore Park on June 29th, starts once again at centre forward, with TJ Reid the only enforced change in Cody’s team after he pulled up with a hamstring injury after 20 minutes against Tipperary.
That means Aidan Fogarty gets another opportunity to add to his single point, against Offaly, in a disappointing championship thus far.
The other injury concerns for Cody appear to have cleared up as Paul Murphy (ankle) and Jackie Tyrrell (quad) are retained as the corner backs after inspirational performances at Nowlan Park.
Waterford manager Michael Ryan has made one change to his team, adding Richie Foley to midfield alongside captain Kevin Moran.
The side boasts a strong, established spine, with Liam Lawlor at fullback, Michael “Brick” Walsh at centre back and supporting defenders in the shape of the Fives brothers, Shane and Darragh, Jamie Nagle and Noel Connors.
Séamus Prendergast is at centre forward with Maurice Shanahan to use his height from the square’s edge. He will, no doubt, be welcomed by his elder brother Dan’s former nemesis JJ Delaney.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Barry- Murphy has made two changes, both influenced by injury, to the Cork team for Sunday’s Munster hurling final against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.
The loss of first choice fullback Brian Murphy, to a shoulder injury sustained near the end of a recent club game for Bride Rovers, means Stephen McDonnell takes the number three jersey, with Shane O’Neill shifted to corner back.
Tom Kenny leaves his midfield post to play right wing back as Lorcán McLoughlin is fit enough to join Daniel Kearney in the middle.
Stephen Moylan also loses out as captain Pa Cronin returns from injury to start at left half forward as he seeks to lead Cork to a 51st title.
Barry-Murphy also has some decent reserves to call upon, especially in the forwards as Jamie Coughlan, Cathal Naughton and Michael Cussen are named in the 26-man panel.
Limerick manager John Allen, who guided his native Cork to their last provincial title in 2006, has gone with the 15 that out hurled Tipperary in the semi-final on June 9th.
The only change in how they lined out for that famous 1-18 to 1-15 victory is wing forwards David Breen and Séamus Hickey started on different sides of James Ryan.
Like Cork, Allen has some serious attacking options to revert to should his forwards miss-fire ,with Shane Dowling, Niall Moran and Kevin Downes on the bench.
Limerick are seeking their 19th Munster title and first since 1996.
Meanwhile, Mayo manager James Horan expects Cillian O’Connor to play some part in the Connacht football final, with the Ballintubber attacker due to return to full contact training this evening two months after dislocating his shoulder.
Horan is ready to welcome O’Connor back in the matchday panel with Mikey Conroy as both have made their comeback to the training paddock.
“Cillian O’Connor is making good progress and Mikey is making good progress,” Horan confirmed. “Cillian is right on track with his rehab protocol and he is due back to full contact training tomorrow evening. I am looking forward to seeing him back on the field, to be honest.”