MICHAEL Fennelly has declared himself available for Kilkenny's Championship opener against Wexford on Sunday but the former Hurler of the Year has revealed worries for his career caused by a lingering back injury.
Fennelly has endured a rough three seasons with back, knee and ankle injuries, and suffers from an arthritic condition which causes sharp pain across his lower back, putting him out of action for weeks at a time and forcing him to miss out on large amounts of training.
"I hope to be involved. I have trained for the last week or so," he explained.
"Maybe I am being a bit optimistic but you have to be optimistic."
The last such flare-up occurred five weeks ago.
"I was out for about a week and a half.
"I was on medication, a week and a half, and that settled me straight away and then I trained hard for two weeks, absolutely flying, everything going well, and then for the club game I felt my back stiffening up there at half-time.
"And it came to near the end of the game and I was in the dressing room and my back just completely set off.
"Even getting to sit into the car was a problem so I was back to square one again."
The injury manifests itself as "a pain across the lower back.
"It can be a boney pain as well and it can be a muscle pain," Fennelly added.
"It can go on from there to muscle pain and literally have my muscles just constantly active and if they're constantly active they're getting sore and tighter and even from walking or sitting down, you're sore and it's not a pain that you can actually go through.
"It's a pain that you can't just do anything."
"It can change to your lower back and upper back and into your neck and that and that has something to do with it but it's just that medical area of your back is just so up in the air, it's a guessing game.
Asked how close he could get to full fitness, Fennelly replied: "I don't really know.
"I've had a lot of work over the last 10 years done and I'm a quick responder to weights and running."
"I don't know what percentage I'm at but I think I'm able to manage," he concluded.