Fitzpatrick in fight to see league action for Cats

JAMES ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick is facing a race against time to play any part in Kilkenny’s remaining divisional games in the National Hurling League.

Fitzpatrick missed the loss to Waterford, and last Sunday’s win over Tipperary, and he will also be an absentee for the Cats’ top-v-bottom clash with Clare at Ennis on Sunday.

The midfield ace contracted a bout of mumps which left him a doubtful starter for Ballyhale Shamrocks’ defeat by Portumna in the All-Ireland Club semi-final on February 22, in which he looked a pale shadow of his customary highly influential self.

And after lining out against the Galway outfit, and for St Patrick’s, Drumcondra in the Fitzgibbon Cup, he was hit by the ‘flu bug.

“We’re giving “Cha’ as much time as possible to recover from what he has been through,” explained Kilkenny selector Martin Fogarty.

Galway hurlers, who face Waterford at Fraher Field, Dungarvan on Sunday have been further boosted by the return from injury of Iarla Tannian, a forward who has been ever-present for the Tribesmen in the championship for the past two years.

Tannian’s return will give Galway further options up front with Joe Canning now back in the fold and Damian Hayes set to return this week.

Tannian started all of Galway’s seven championship matches during the Ger Loughnane era — predominantly at wing-forward — and he scored in all of them except for the qualifier defeat to Cork last year.

With centre-back John Lee also declaring his availability, manager John McIntyre and his selectors are starting to put their championship side together.

Portumna’s Kevin Hayes, outstanding at centre-forward when they won their third All-Ireland club title in four years on St Patrick’s Day, has been recalled to the squad.

Going in the opposite direction are Paul Killilea of Gort and Clarinbridge’s Brian Burke who have been dropped.

Galway football manager Liam Sammon has also received a timely boost with wing-back Gareth Bradshaw available for Sunday’s derby against Mayo in Tuam Stadium.

Bradshaw, whose consistency in the league for unbeaten Galway has only been surpassed by Michael Meehan, missed the draw away to Derry last week as he was exam-tied.

But the NUIG student is available for Sunday’s clash against John O’Mahony’s men, the first meeting between the sides at Tuam Stadium since Mayo won the Connacht title there 10 years ago.

Cork hurler Niall McCarthy looks set to appeal the suspension he will receive following his sending-off in last Sunday’s NHL tie against Clare in Ennis.

McCarthy was dismissed in the second-half after striking Clare defender Brendan Bugler and the four-week suspension McCarthy could incur would rule him out for the remainder of Cork’s NHL campaign. But it is now understood McCarthy will appeal the suspension.

Both the Cork hurling team to meet Limerick in the Allianz National League at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday and the football team to take on Monaghan in Clones, also on Sunday, are due to be announced tonight.

Aidan Walsh has recovered from injury to return to the Cork side for Saturday’s Munster U21 football final against Tipperary. The Kanturk player missed last Saturday’s semi-final victory over Waterford with a hamstring problem he sustained in Cork IT’s All-Ireland Fresher Hurling triumph the previous week. But he has recovered to take up the centre-back position, with Bart Daly switching back to wing-back and Denis O’Sullivan dropping to the bench. Walsh’s introduction is the only change that manager John Cleary has made to the starting 15.

Derry football boss Damien Cassidy has to wait until tonight to learn if key defender Niall McCusker will be able to line out in Sunday’s NFL clash with Tyrone, at Omagh.

The big full-back was forced to retire with a dead leg in the draw with Galway last Sunday, and the absence of the Ballinderry man would be a big blow to Derry’s hopes of handing the All-Ireland champions their second defeat on the trot.

Cassidy hasn’t had a chance of monitoring McCusker’s condition since Sunday, as the Oak Leaf County have trimmed their training session frequency to once a week during the current schedule of four matches on successive Sundays.

“We’ll be meeting tonight, and we’ll have a look at Niall then,” explained Cassidy, whose side lie third in the Division One table behind leaders Kerry and Galway.

“But I’d be reasonably hopeful that Niall will be okay for the Tyrone match, as it’s not an injury that takes too long to clear up”

But once more Cassidy won’t be able to call on corner-forward Enda Lynn, a newcomer this year, who made such a huge impression in the win over Dublin.

“Enda was very unfortunate, as in the very last minute of our training session on the Thursday prior to the Galway, he went over on his ankle,” explained Cassidy.

“If it was a championship game, we could use him next Sunday. But there’s no point in taking a risk that he might aggravate the injury, and thereby put his participation in the championship in doubt.”

Cassidy revealed that for the joust with Mickey Harte’s charges he is likely to follow the pattern of making wholesale changes in his starting line-up from the previous match.

“For every match in the league so far, we’ve made a minimum of five changes,” he pointed out, “and that will likely again be the case for Sunday.

“Only two players have played in all five matches so far – (wing-back) Paul Cartin and (full-forward) Eoin Bradley.

“I think it’s very important to give every player a chance to show what he can do, and it also shows us how strong our panel is.”

Long-serving stalwarts like defenders Kevin McGuckin and Kevin McCloy, as well as midfielder Fergal Doherty, were left out for the Galway game, and they could see some action against the Red Hands..

Cassidy pointed out that the performance of Patsy Bradley and Enda Muldoon in the midfield sector last Sunday clearly showed that Derry are not over-reliant on Doherty to pull them through games.

CORK (Under 21 v Tipperary): D. Farry (Nemo Rangers); J. McLoughlin (Kanturk), J. O’Sullivan (Bishopstown), N. Galvin (Ballincollig); C. O’Driscoll (Ilen Rovers), A. Walsh (Kanturk), B. Daly (Newmarket); K. O’Driscoll (Tadgh MacCarthaigh’s), C. O’Donovan (Valley Rovers); C. Sheehan (Eire og), S. McCarthy (Douglas), C. O’Driscoll (Tadgh MacCarthaigh’s); C. O’Neill (Ballyclough), D. Goold (Macrooom), P. Honohan (Bishopstown).

FIXTURES: Today: Ulster Bank HE Freshers Hurling Division 2 Championship final (ET if necessary): DCU v Mary Immaculate Collge, Limerick, Clonad Laois, 2pm; Ulster Bank HE Junior Football Final (ET if necessary): NUI Galway v IT Sligo, IT Sligo, 5pm.

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