Cuala duo in race to make Dubs' opener
Mark Schutte and Cian O'Callaghan are in a race to be fit for the start of Dublin's Leinster SHC campaign after failing to feature for their club on Wednesday night.
The Cuala duo were notable absentees as the two-time All-Ireland champions blitzed St Jude's, 2-27 to 0-16, in their Dublin SHC 'A' group clash at Monastery Road. They had already missed Cuala's opening fixture, a 3-26 to 1-12 demolition of St Brigid's the weekend before last.
Their lack of competitive club action is sure to intensify speculation about their availability for Dublin's crucial round-robin opener against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on May 11.
While there has been no injury update from Mattie Kenny's Dublin camp, Schutte would appear the bigger doubt given he hasn't hurled at all this season because of a long-term foot injury.
The dual ace was part of Jim Gavin's Dublin football squad for the past two summers before reverting to the Sky Blue hurlers following the appointment of his old club boss, Kenny.
But the forward has yet to feature in his latest Sky Blue incarnation.
O'Callaghan, a mainstay of the full-back line in recent seasons, started the second and third Allianz League rounds (against Offaly and Galway) but lasted only 38 minutes in Salthill before succumbing to hamstring trouble. He sat out Dublin's next four games, including their quarter-final ambush of Tipperary and semi-final defeat to All-Ireland champions Limerick.
A third member of Dublin's Cuala contingent - Darragh O'Connell - suffered a facial injury against St Jude's but the word from Dalkey is that the damage was relatively minor.
Kenny's maiden NHL campaign underlined Dublin's defensive strength, but question marks remain over their attacking prowess, especially with options curtailed by injury.
On that score, there will be relief to see Oisín O'Rorke back in the goalscoring groove for Kilmacud Crokes in their 1-17 to 0-7 win over O'Toole's on Wednesday evening.
O'Rorke had enjoyed his most productive spring with Dublin before an ankle injury forced his early exit against Limerick.
The sharpshooter missed Kilmacud's opening SHC deadlock with Na Fianna, but he got 38 minutes in the tank against O'Toole's before departing (with no sign of any injury recurrence) soon after he had rifled home the only goal.
Tonight, the attention will turn to Parnell Park (7.30) to see if Conal Keaney starts for Ballyboden St Enda's against Whitehall Colmcille. The 36-year-old sat out the entire league after shoulder surgery but returned to club championship action with a priceless cameo against Lucan Sarsfields 13 days ago.
Keaney's experience, not to mention his 0-2 off the bench, helped the Dublin SHC holders to a fraught one-point victory.
For all of the fitness doubts assailing Dublin, Kilkenny's injury travails appear even more serious.
Full-back contender Conor Delaney has been ruled out with a broken bone in his lower leg - a cruel blow given his recent successful foray to the Central Appeals Committee, and one likely to keep him sidelined for up to ten weeks.
The CAC deemed that a one-match suspension relating to his red card against Wexford had been served already in Kilkenny's so-called relegation play-off against Cork (even though demotion was not on the cards). This would have freed Delaney for their championship opener - but for his injury.
James Maher is also sidelined with a similar break in the ankle area; Rob Lennon is not expected back following hip surgery until July; while former Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan appears a major doubt after his long-standing back problem flared up again while playing for Danesfort against Erin's Own.
Meanwhile, there are mixed reports about Cillian Buckley's chances of featuring against the Dubs after a long-running knee issue; he hasn't played for Kilkenny since last July or for his club, Dicksboro, since September.