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Sunday 19 May 2019

Kenny minus several Dubs as D-Day looms

Three men out and several more doubtful as Sky Blues seek to kickstart summer in Kilkenny

John Roche Hetherton will not feature for Dublin in their Championship opener against Kilkenny on Saturday
John Roche Hetherton will not feature for Dublin in their Championship opener against Kilkenny on Saturday

Mattie Kenny's first championship selection as Dublin hurling boss will be compromised by that familiar enemy of all inter-county managers - injury.

Kenny has confirmed that Cian O'Callaghan, Fionntán Mac Gib and John Hetherton will definitely not feature against Kilkenny in Saturday's Leinster SHC round-robin opener in Nowlan Park.

Moreover, while Mark Schutte is back on the field, he has yet to resume full training after undergoing foot surgery two months ago ... all of which suggests that this weekend's critical first foray will come too soon for the towering target man.

Kenny is more hopeful that two-time All Star Liam Rushe will be able to tog out against the Cats, despite an ongoing hand injury problem.

Perhaps the one big consolation for Dublin is that Kilkenny have been bedevilled by a casualty list that is longer and even more problematic, affecting a handful of key men, some of whom could miss the entire provincial campaign.

Wounded

Reflecting on his own walking wounded ahead of Saturday's road trip, Kenny revealed: "One of our forwards, Fionntán Mac Gib, is out with a full-time injury. John Hetherton is out. Cian O'Callaghan is out.

"Back training now is Conal Keaney, Mark Schutte, Liam Rushe. They're only back training now ... we're trying to see what level we can get them to."

For Kenny, the transition from all-conquering club manager to the Dublin hotseat has been made easier by his familiarity with the Cuala contingent. But one of those - Schutte - has yet to play a single minute in Sky Blue this season while another - O'Callaghan - has been sidelined by injury since mid-February.

On Schutte, the Dublin boss revealed that the player is back running but not back in full training yet. "The next couple of weeks will decide whether he'll be at the level, whether he can see a lot of game-time or not," he explained.

"He has a long-term foot injury that's causing a lot of problems ... he had to go back for surgery there about eight weeks ago, and he got screws inserted in the ankle."

O'Callaghan would have been viewed as a near-cert for corner-back, but he hasn't played for over two months.

"He got a bad hamstring injury against Galway. He's back running on that, doing light running, but these first early games are coming too soon for him," his former club boss admitted.

Mac Gib seems destined to miss the entire provincial campaign with "a serious ankle injury" - his foot is currently in a protective boot: "It has been a reoccurring injury. During the league, then, it flared up badly - so, he's out for a couple of months."

Catching

Rushe missed the latter end of the league with an injury that has been causing trouble with his catching hand.

"We'd be hoping," his manager said. "This hand injury is a concern to him and to us. But Liam is a hardened campaigner. I'm sure we'll do whatever we can to make sure that he's available for us."

Another forward not as Kenny's disposal is Donal Burke, who is doing his final exams and then looking to go travelling for the summer.

Meanwhile, the Dublin boss has questioned the critics who lamented Dublin's defensive alignment against Limerick in their NHL semi-final at Nowlan Park back in March.

"I'm not really interested in what happened against Limerick six weeks away; I'm looking for what's going to happen [this Saturday]," he began.

"I felt that some people that analysed the game got it wrong. They said Dublin played with a sweeper, which we didn't. We tried to keep our half-back line in place, but Limerick pulled their full-forward way out to midfield and beyond.

"In any game, even teams in the past, you don't necessarily see your half-back line playing above in your half-forward line.

"So, if they sat in that position, that doesn't make them sweepers ... they're holding their positions."

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