There were fears last night that the season was over for unlucky Kilkenny star, Michael Rice.
The Carrickshock player, who has been beset by problems in recent years, suffered a serious knee injury at the Kilkenny training camp in Carton House at the weekend and a damaged cruciate was suspected.
The St Kieran’s College school teacher has been troubled all season by a series of muscle strains. The only piece of action he saw in the county colours was when he came on as a sub in the recent challenge match against All-Ireland champions, Clare to mark the official opening of the James Stephens ground on the Kells Road.
When Rice made an appearance in that tie he became the 40th player given game time by manager, Brian Cody and his selectors, as they spread the net far and wide as they built a new panel.
Rice has been terribly unlucky during his career. He received two bad hand injuries on top of everything else.
After receiving the last one he had nearly a year stolen from his career after he suffered an horrific finger injury in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2012.
He has battled back bravely to full fitness after a series of injuries. The one suffered at the weekend means he will sit out the championship, which starts with a quarter-final clash against Offaly in Nowlan Park on Saturday (7pm).
There was also speculation that midfielder, Michael Fennelly, had picked up and injury and he was a doubtful starter on Saturday. Henry Shefflin and Richie Power have also been ruled out through injury.
Meanwhile, the Kilkenny under-21 team will be without Kevin Kelly (broken jaw) and Jack Langton (Clara) for this evening’s clash with Wexford in Nowlan Park.
The visitors have eight seniors aboard, and are expected to be strong.
“We are ready to give it our best shot,” insisted Kilkenny manager, Brian Ryan.