Kilkenny star, T.J. Reid may step back into the hurling fold this weekend after nearly eight months of waiting following a horrific injury sustained in the All-Ireland final last September.
The stylish Ballyhale Shamrocks attacker cum midfielder had his left knee cap smashed in the MacCarthy Cup showdown, but he may put months of hardship behind him and play some part, however small, in the opening senior hurling league clash, which is a repeat of the county final against Dicksboro.
“Things are coming along nicely, but I won’t push it at this stage,” said T.J., a sales executive with Red Mills.
Has to get OK
He will consult with Kilkenny trainer, Michael Dempsey and squad physio Neil Byrne before the weekend, and if they feel is he ready to go, he will don the colours in the Hugginstown clash on Sunday.
“The knee is good,” T.J. explained. “However, the muscles in the legs were woeful weak after being inactive for so long. I have about a month of light running behind me, but I am itching to get back. It is nice to have a hurley back in my hand again.”
While T.J. has joined his Kilkenny colleagues at training, he has not been involved directly in the hurling. He has been following his own running programme, although in recent weeks he started doing the more demanding drills work.
The 25-year-old recalled the evening he had his first run after the injury about a month ago. He met Mr Dempsey in Nowlan Park, but even after a few simple runs he was sore for days afterwards.
Since he has been guided along the road to recovery by Messrs Dempey and Byrne, who have supervised a gradual increase in his workload.
“It was nice to be back running on grass after all the time I spent working in the gym,” T.J. continued. “It felt like a big step forward. My confidence will come back the more active I become. I am itching to get back, but I will be guided by the lads.”
T.J. missed the Shamrocks run to championship victory after receiving the injury. The fact that he is on the way back will be a huge boost to the club who will be without nine times All-Ireland medal winner, Henry Shefflin, for another good spell, and maybe even Michael Fennelly.
Meanwhile, opponents Dicksboro hope to have one of their rising stars, Cillian Buckley, back in action. He hasn’t played since the county final defeat. He has been afflicted with constant groin injuries for years, and he had surgery earlier in the year aimed at sorting the problem.
Ballyhale (7pm) - Carrickshock v James Stephens: Both are under new management and no doubt they will be keen to hit the ground running. In recent seasons they have been able to get the better of each other, with neither side looking a dominant force. ’Stephens stock of county men could make the difference.
St John’s Park (7pm) - Tullaroan v St Martin’s: Martin’s new manager, Charlie Carter, has to contend with a glut of injuries as he prepares to take his bow as boss at this level. It won’t be easy. There is always fire in the Tullaroan hurling. If Martin’s are as badly off as they suggest, Tullaroan’s big heart could be the difference.
Nowlan Park (7pm) - Clara v O’Loughlin Gaels: Interesting, very interesting! Robert Shortall had to vacate the Clara hot seat after the thrilling All-Ireland intermediate club success because of work commitments. Former Offaly star, Aidan Fogarty, who has won two championships in recent years in Laois, has been installed as manager by the Gaels. If newly promoted Clara bring out the best of their hurling, the Gaels will be in for some battle.
Jenkinstown (7pm) - Danesfort v Erin’s Own: You look at the ’Fort and you see county men, Richie and Paddy Hogan and Paul Murphy in the ranks. Nice contingent to have! Against that, Erin’s Own have Conor Fogarty. The numbers would suggest the advantage lies with ’Fort, who nearly blew it last year because they weren’t able to turn possession into account. The same challenge remains.
Hugginstown (2pm) - Ballyhale Shamrocks v Dicksboro: What a start to the season for both. You know the season is up and running when you get an attractive fixture like this. Shamrocks will be without Henry Shefflin and Eamon Walsh, and possibly T.J. Reid and Michael Fennelly. Hard to see any club shipping such losses and not suffering....badly. The ’Boro have a great chance to swing into the season with a win, although their league form in recent times has been poor.
Freshford (7pm) - Fenians v Graigue-Ballycallan: Graigue finished their season in Freshford when losing in the championship to James Stephens. The Village were glad to see the back of them. Graigue were good, but they need to start where they finished, because their end of season form was hugely promising. Fenians? They were slow out of blocks last year and their opening showing was their worst. They have reason to be concerned.