Injury problems mar preparations of All-Ireland Colleges finalists

ST KIERAN’S (Kilkenny) and Gort Community Schools (Galway) have serious injury worries ahead of tomorrow’s All-Ireland Colleges SHC semi-final at Boherlahan (3.30pm).

Gort could be without Shane Kennedy, who underwent an operation yesterday for a broken nose, while there is also concern about Colm Forde who has a neck injury.

"This is a huge game for us," said team official Barney Winston. "We've never beaten Kieran's in senior hurling and by all accounts they have a very formidable team.

"If we have everyone available I'd give ourselves some chance, but Shane Kennedy must be doubtful. However the lads are looking forward to the challenge and will give it everything."

Gort, who defeated St Raphael's in the Connacht final, will be captained by Tadhg Linnane, son of former

Galway stalwart Sylvie, the Greene brothers John and Niall, the Forde brothers Colm and Stephen, Kieran Diviney and Alan Martin.

Ever since they lost last year's final to St Colman's, Kieran's have been itching for a rematch. But Gort stand in their way.

They could be without Kevin Power who underwent a cartilage operation three weeks ago.

Team mentors Tom Hogan and John Quane are also concerned about the fitness of John Walsh who damaged a thumb in the Leinster final win over St Peter's last Saturday.

"We know very little about Gort, which is probably a good thing in that mentors tend to readjust their team to try and contain certain players," said Hogan.

"The game against St Peter's, which was quite physical, should stand to us, but I would be far happier if we had Kevin Power available."

With their great Munster rivals awaiting the winners in the final, Kieran's have every incentive. St Jarlath's put their All-Ireland football title on the line when they clash with St Mels in the All-Ireland colleges A SFC at Dr Hyde Park.

It's been nine years since these two great football colleges last met in the championship victory going to the Galway side. Mel's coach James Gacquin is under no illusions about the task facing his side.

"With half of last year's All-Ireland winning team available to them, Jarlath's won't give up their title easily," he said.

"If we can reproduce the form we showed against St Pat's, I would be confident of advancing to the final. But it's a tall order for us."

Jarlath's coach Fr Oliver Hughes is concerned at the form of his side.

"We played three B teams in the Connacht championship and were extremely fortunate to come through," he said.

"To give you some idea of our form, none of those teams we beat qualified for the B final. With only four of last year's winning team playing, we are really up against it.

"However, we are the defending champions and that must count for something. If James Kavanagh, Ger Aherne, Gary Sice and Jer O'Donoghue play to form, we'll be there with a shout."

The second semi-final, between Coláiste na Sceilge and St Pat's (Maghera) in Birr tomorrow (3.30pm start) promises to be an exciting affair.

The Munster champions recently won their third provincial title in a row, and would dearly love that All-Ireland crown. Pat's will be favourites on the strength of having come through a very competitive Ulster campaign, but Kerry teams don't lie down easily and it would be foolish to write them off.

In the B grade All-Ireland semi-finals tomorrow, Clonmel High School should carry too much power for St Michael's (Lurgan) in their football clash at Birr (2pm), while St Joseph's (Borrisoleigh) should have little difficulty in disposing of St Mary's (Belfast) in the hurling tie at Mullingar (3.30pm).

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