Injury cloud lifting for Gilroy as countdown to Cats clash begins
A number of the Dublin hurling panel made their respective returns from injury over the weekend in a boost to Pat Gilroy ahead of his team's looming Leinster SHC campaign.
Gilroy's team face a daunting provincial opener against newly-crowned League champions, Kilkenny in Parnell Park on May 13th, the first of four Leinster SHC matches they will play five weekends.
However, the recent spate of injuries that afflicted Gilroy's squad towards the end of his maiden League campaign in charge are finally beginning to clear up. Liam Rushe, whose League involvement totalled three substitutes appearances against Antrim, Limerick and Galway, played for his club, St Patrick's Palmerstown, in their Dublin SHC 'B' group loss to Round Towers at Monastery Road.
Both Johnny McCaffrey and Peter Kelly, meanwhile, played for Lucan Sarsfields in their 1-25 to 1-12 win over Crumlin in O'Toole Park.
Having started the League in Gilroy's starting XV, McCaffrey did not play a part in any of their last three games while Kelly, though recalled to the panel, has yet to play a minute of competitive action, due to a long-lingering knee injury.
Chris Crummey - Dublin's captain during the League - also played the full game at centre-back, having hobbled out of Dublin's recent loss to Tipperary with a worrying ankle injury.
Cian O'Sullivan, who came on for his seasonal Dublin debut against Laois in O'Moore Park but sat out the big League quarter-final defeat to Tipperary in Croke Park, played the entirety of S t Brigid's Dublin SHC Group 3 loss to All-Ireland champions Cuala in Parnell Park.
As it stands then, Gilroy's chief injury concern is Eamonn Dillon. The Naomh Fionbarra forward hasn't played for Dublin since February 4th, when he started their one-point victory over Antrim in Belfast in the second round of this year's League.
His club began their Dublin SHC campaign against Kilmacud Crokes on Thursday evening in Parnell Park but Dillon played no part.
With less than five weeks to go until Brian Cody's men come to Donnycarney, he is a serious doubt for that opening night clash.
Gilroy is, however, expected to welcome a contingent of Cuala players back into his squad this week as they reintegrate themselves with the county team, with all eyes on Mark Schutte.
Schutte, who opted out of Ger Cunningham's panel last summer, subsequently won an All-Ireland with the Dublin football team, although his only game time came as a sub in their Leinster SFC opener against Carlow in Portlaoise.
Previously, Schutte was part of Pat Gilroy's Dublin senior football panel but opted out in 2010 in favour of playing for Anthony Daly's hurlers.
The younger of the Schutte brothers missed most of Cuala's Dublin SHC and subsequent Leinster SHC campaigns with a foot injury but made his comeback in the All-Ireland club semi-final victory over Liam Mellows.
He was in prime form in Portlaoise two weeks ago in Cuala's All-Ireland final replay victory over Na Piarsaigh, however, and speaking last week, Danny Sutcliffe said Schutte would fit straight back in with the Dublin hurlers, should he decided to throw his lot in with Gilroy.
"It's tough not to be biased and to tell him," admitted Sutcliffe, a former team-mate and school friend.
"He'll make his own mind up."
Paul Schutte, who had been expected to come back into the fold after similarly opting out last year, is out ling-term with the hamstring injury that forced him out of the replay in O'Moore Park.
Kilkenny meanwhile, may not have either Paul Murphy or Colin Fennelly back for that game, despite expectations that they would return from their tour of duty with the Irish Defence Forces in the Lebanon in time to take part in their Leinster SHC preparations.