By Daragh Small
Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald says losing star player Tony Kelly to injury is a massive blow as his side look to bounce back to Division 1A.
Clare begin their Allianz League Division 1B campaign at home to Offaly on Sunday in Ennis and they will have to do without the Ballyea clubman, a former Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year award winner.
The 22-year-old injured ankle ligaments in training two weeks ago and is set to miss at least two months of action as he looks to recover in time for the knockout stages of the league.
Kelly was the focal point of Clare’s All-Ireland success in 2013 and starred for UL as they claimed the Fitzgibbon Cup last year.
“We are just absolutely devastated to lose him. He is a massive player for Clare. But it is what it is and we have to get over it and move on,” said Fitzgerald.
That news came on the back of Pat Donnellan’s cruciate ligament injury, and with Seadna Morey also unavailable for selection Clare will face a tough task this weekend.
They had just one victory in last year’s doomed Division 1A campaign where they finished bottom of the pile, and lost their relegation play-off to eventual All-Ireland champions Kilkenny.
They were subsequently knocked out of the Munster championship by Limerick at the first time of asking, and Cork dumped them out of the All-Ireland qualifiers in the second round.
But they started this season well, winning the Munster senior league and manager Fitzgerald, who has added former Cork great Donal Og Cusack to his backroom team, believes Offaly will be a big challenge.
“We have nothing to prove this season. We will just keep going as best we can and see what happens,” he said.
“Offaly will be coming to Ennis to show us a thing or two. We beat them well in the championship last year. They will be really improved and we will need to be up for that.
“We are definitely down Tony, definitely without Seadna Morey. There’s two or three guys we won’t have, but that gives other lads the opportunity there. And we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
They are not the only hurling panel faced with injury difficulties.
Tipperary released an update this morning ahead of their opening Allianz Hurling League Division 1A fixture against Dublin in three days.
The county confirmed: “Seamus Callanan will be out for a further couple of weeks, Conor O’Brien will be out for 3 weeks, Kieran Bergin will also be out for 2 weeks while new panelist Sean Curran has suffered a medial ligament injury which will result in Sean missing the entire League.”