DUBLIN'S hurlers' worst fears have been confirmed with the news that Stephen Hiney has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
The Ballyboden man was stretchered off early in the first half of Sunday's nine-point rout of Wexford with a knee injury and a scan yesterday confirmed he has severed an anterior cruciate ligament.
The injury carries a recovery period of between six and 10 months, meaning Hiney will be forced to sit out Dublin's remaining league fixtures and their entire 2011 championship campaign.
Hiney -- who has been captain of the Dublin hurlers for the past four seasons -- would have been a certain starter in Anthony Daly's championship team.
It is the second major injury Hiney has sustained after his career was put in jeopardy back in 2005 when he damaged both retinas and was advised not to play again.
Hiney's cruciate injury is the third such blow to hit Daly's squad recently after both David Treacy and Shane Stapleton were struck down with similar knocks last year.
It is an added blow, with 2009 All Star, Alan McCrabbe, facing a race against time to recover from a hip operation in time for Dublin's opening Leinster SFC clash with Offaly on May 29.
Meanwhile, Andy Kearns will start at full-back for O'Loughlin Gaels for Thursday's All-Ireland club hurling final clash with Clarinbridge.
Kearns, who is widely tipped for a county call-up by Kilkenny boss, Brian Cody, missed the semi-final win over Loughgiel Shamrocks after tearing a hamstring in the rescheduled Leinster final win over Oulart-The-Ballagh on January 16 but has made sufficient progress since then to be considered for selection.
Brian Murphy -- who deputised for the Oulart win -- is the player to lose out.
O'LOUGHLIN GAELS (SH v Clarinbridge): S Murphy; B Kelly, A Kearns, E Kearns; A O'Brien, B Hogan, N Bergin; P Dowling, M Nolan; N McEvoy, M Bergin, A Geoghegan; B Dowling, M Comerford, D Loughnane.