Kilkenny’s Michael Fennelly and Henry Shefflin may have impact roles against Waterford
“He (Shefflin) probably shouldn’t have been right for another two or three weeks. His drive is just unbelievable.”
Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly. The All-Ireland champions are still waiting for them to regain full fitness.
Fennelly tested his ankle in the warm-up before last Saturday’s qualifier victory over Tipperary but was not deemed fit enough to play any role.
The same process will be followed this week. That’s the way it is with Kilkenny at the moment. Henry Shefflin compelled Brian Cody to allow him to prove himself in a 20 minute game nine days ago. Despite concerns from Shefflin’s surgeon, the healing stress fracture in his foot held up but it remains the major concern for Kilkenny and Cody.
Shefflin conceded on Saturday night that “it’s just if the pressure comes on it too much it’ll come back again” and an extra fortnight of nothing but straight line running was recommended.
However, Kilkenny are now embroiled in win or bust games. Despite displaying recovery powers comparable to Brian O’Driscoll, the 2012 hurler of the year admitted he would not be able to play 70 minutes this weekend but will strive to make a greater contribution than the six minutes against Tipperary (that was still enough time to set up the Kilkenny score that killed Tipperary’s season).
“Only put on my boots two weeks ago and my helmet last week, so I suppose I would have rather if we had another couple of weeks,” said Shefflin.
‘Fight for place’
After watching his mis-firing forwards spring to life with Walter Walsh, Richie Power, Eoin Larkin, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan combining for 10 points from play, Cody was able to say of Shefflin’s return to the starting line-up: “He has to fight for his place that fella. I don’t know, we have to assess everything now, we have to assess injuries.”
Still, Shefflin’s arrival with Kilkenny leading by two points was unquantifiable. “It was a huge boost,” said Colin Fennelly. “He was telling us that he didn’t want to come on today because there shouldn’t have been any need. He was driving us on and it makes you believe. He was saying if we pushed it he wouldn’t have to come on. When he came on it was a massive boost.
“He gave a hand-pass to Richie Power for a point. He probably shouldn’t have been right for another two or three weeks. His drive is just unbelievable. Even when he wasn’t playing he was driving us on.”
Jackie Tyrrell’s quad strain and, remarkably, Paul Murphy’s ankle problem both appeared to have cleared up as the Kilkenny corner backs produced powerful displays in shutting up the Tipperary attack. TJ Reid is a serious doubt having pulled up with a hamstring complaint after 20 minutes last weekend.
Waterford have their own concerns ahead of the meeting in Semple stadium with Shane Walsh (hamstring) and Brian O’Halloran (ankle) unavailable.
Meanwhile, Clare’s chief scoring threat is struggling to be fit for the other hurling qualifier down in Thurles, against Wexford, also this Saturday night as Darach Honan is struggling with a quad strain.