Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald has revealed that one of his top stars will be left "devastated" when he is omitted from the starting line-up for Sunday's Allianz Hurling League Division One final following a concussion scare.
Fitzgerald is faced with an agonising decision after a player he refused to name was diagnosed with concussion following the comprehensive semi-final victory over Kilkenny.
Fitzgerald, speaking last night ahead of the championship dress rehearsal with the Déise, also confirmed that Conor Ryan and David McInerney will be ruled out through injury once again, with a call on Shane O'Donnell's participation to be made on Friday.
But Fitzgerald refused to name the player he may have to deliver tough news to, explaining: “The most important thing with this set-up is the player comes first. I’m not going to risk anyone, if I thought it would cause problems down the road.
“We have one player who got concussed after the Kilkenny game. He’s mad to go but I don’t think we’re going to. He’ll be devastated. The player is number one, no matter what else happens. Winning hurling games is number two.”
As Clare aim to win this competition for the first time since 1978, they’ll go into battle without 2013 All-Ireland winners McInerney and Ryan.
McInerney was a revelation at centre back when Clare beat Limerick last month to clinch promotion from Division 1B, with O'Donnell injuring his foot in the same game.
McInerney has been sidelined ever since with a back injury and while Ryan lined out in the quarter-final victory over Tipperary, a calf injury sidelined the Cratloe man for the Kilkenny win.
Forward Peter Duggan could return, however, after playing in a challenge match against Cork last weekend.
Fitzgerald also allayed fears surrounding Podge Collins after local reports suggested that the dual star, recently back to full fitness following a cruciate knee ligament injury, jarred his knee playing for the footballers against Kildare at Croke Park.
On Sunday, however, Collins lined out for the Cratloe hurlers in a club outing and scored 1-2.
Fitzgerald also said that he had a frank discussion with Collins at the beginning of the year when it became apparent that the player wished to fulfil a dual mandate this year.
He said: “The one thing myself and Podge did at the start of the year, we had a conversation that will remain between ourselves. We’ve agreed that we wouldn’t talk about it. We had a good chat. And it might be different to what ye think.”
Fitzgerald is preparing himself for a battle against former charges
, who he brought to an All-Ireland final in 2008. He stepped down after the 2011 campaign but retains a huge affection for the Déise.
He added: “I would have a soft spot for them because I was down with them for a number of years. They treated me very well. It’s great that you can walk away from a team, part ways and yet you feel good about going down there.
“You can’t really hate them anyway, can you?
“For 70 minutes, that goes out the door when you cross that white line. Things could be said but I have a lot of friends down there, friends in their backroom team that I’ll shake hands with.”