Fennelly to return?

With his path to goal blocked by Galway duo Iarla Tannian and Ronan Burke, Kilkennys Henry Shefflin puts his best foot forward and boots the sliotar on during Sundays Leinster senior hurling semi-final in Tullamore. The sides will meet again in Saturdays replay at the Offaly venue. Photo: Eoin Hennessy
Speculation was rife last night that Michael Fennelly might make a surprise return to the Kilkenny team for Saturday’s Leinster championship replay.

Speculation was rife last night that Michael Fennelly might make a surprise return to the Kilkenny team for Saturday’s Leinster championship replay.

The Ballyhale Shamrocks midfielder cum attacker missed Sunday’s drawn semi-final in Tullamore with a back injury, but Kilkenny officials haven’t given up all hope that he could be fit for Saturday’s replay in the same venue (7pm).

The former hurler of the year had been picked at centre-forward for Sunday’s match, but he suffered a muscle spasm during training on Friday which forced him to step down.

Fennelly has been receiving intensive treatment since, and while Kilkenny officials initially ruled him out of the replay, the signs were a bit more encouraging last night, and he could yet feature.

Galway have a big team and their serious physical approach, especially during the opening half, caused the Cats major problems. A fit Fennelly would lend huge strength, power and drive to the team, and Kilkenny would love to have him aboard.

The team is usually picked early in the week and given to the printers for the programme before being made public on Friday night. Expect the ‘will he, won’t he’ talk to continue until then.

Fennelly did a bit of light running at training on Monday night, and while it is a huge step from that to involvement in serious championship action, the door to his participation hasn’t be slammed shut.

Power injury

Meanwhile, Richie Power could be sidelined for up to eight weeks after tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee (back of knee) during Sunday’s match. The damage was done when Power’s knee crashed against the ground after contesting a high ball.

Surgery will not be required to repair the damage, apparently, which is a good thing and this could shorten the recovery period.

The usual time frame for such an injury is two months, but Power confounded all by making a quick return after a recent hamstring injury, which was his second of the season.

The only things for sure now are that the Carrickshock man will miss Saturday’s replay, and any action over the coming weeks.

A club official expressed confidence that the 29-year-old would definitely be back for the local club championship later in the season, although he might miss the latter stages of the league.

The loss would be huge to Carrickshock, who are still only coming to terms with the loss of Michael Rice, who was struck down by a severed cruciate ligament injury some weeks ago. To have two such talented performers missing would be a massive blow to the club.

The loss of Power will most likely open the door back into the team for nine times All-Ireland medal winner, Henry Shefflin, who was sprung from the bench on Sunday.

The Ballyhale Shamrocks attacker scored a brilliant lead point in additional time that almost stole a win for the Cats after they had surrendered a 10 point lead. Shefflin looked good, and the additional week of training should be a huge help.

Shefflin was sidelined with a stress fracture after the National League final win over Tipperary and he missed club action, but he is ready to drive on again.

He last faced Galway in the League semi-final, when he produced a star show, scoring four points and making as many more for colleagues.