OFFALY boss Joe Dooley fears that he'll be without two of his long-term casualties, Paul Cleary and Joe Brady, for their Leinster SHC opener against Dublin on May 29.
James Rigney, currently recovering from a broken arm, is another doubt for the Parnell Park clash although -- of the stricken trio - he has the "best chance" of making it.
Cleary (Achilles) and Brady (hip) have both been sidelined all spring with injuries that required surgery, while Rigney had a pin inserted in the arm he broke during Offaly's opening NHL outing against Cork.
"James Rigney will be back probably in about a month or six weeks' time. Joe Brady is probably a bit longer, Paul Cleary a bit longer as well," Dooley outlined after yesterday's crucial Division One victory over relegation rivals Wexford. "They are our three main concerns at the minute, three strong men up the middle."
Asked if Cleary and Brady would be ready for the championship, he replied: "It's very doubtful at the minute. Probably all three are touch and go, but James Rigney has the best chance."
KILKENNY'S hand may be significantly weakened this coming Saturday for their visit to Croke Park if, as is feared in the Marble County, two of their half-back line are ruled out.
Both Tommy Walsh and JJ Delaney were replaced by Brian Cody in Nowlan Park yesterday as the Cats beat Waterford to leapfrog next Saturday's opponents, Dublin, and while the extent of their injuries remains unclear, the Kilkenney boss was clearly concerned after the mach.
"Tommy is the AC shoulder joint and JJ's is the hamstring. We don't know how bad they are but it is a worry, we don't need any more (injuries) right now," he said.
In addition, Michael Fennelly (back spasm) and James 'Cha' Fitzpatrick (tonsillitis) were late withdrawals from the team which lined out against the Déise and must prove their fitness this week if they are to play against Dublin.
IN the Dublin camp, meanwhile, Conor McCormack has emerged as an injury doubt for next Saturday's clash with the Cats at Croke Park (5.15) after going off with a hand injury against Galway yesterday.
County board chairman Andy Kettle revealed that the Ballyboden forward was due for an X-ray this morning.
"It's only a six-day turnaround (to the Kilkenny game) and his hand was fairly swollen, but hopefully it's nothing serious," Kettle explained.
Anthony Daly's Dubs have no further injury worries despite both Liam Rushe and Shane Durkin hobbling out of yesterday's defeat to Galway. The Dublin manager explained that both had suffered from cramp and are not expected to miss any action as a result.
Shoulder injury victim Peter Kelly should be available again, although the match looks set to come too soon for Maurice O'Brien, who is still out with an ankle injury.
DUBLIN'S minor footballers face Longford in the Leinster MFL final next weekend, probably Friday night in Parnell Park, following their 2-9 to 2-6 semi-final victory over Offaly in Tubber.
A strong start to the second half with points from Conor Meaney, Ciarán Kilkenny (two, one free), a Scott Fulham goal and Cormac Costello point was crucial to this victory for Dessie Farrell's side.