Laois boss Rigney looks to retain role

LAOIS’S hopes of continuing their recent hurling renaissance have improved with confirmation that manager Niall Rigney wishes to continue on in the post.

The Portlaoise man took over on an interim basis last summer and helped the county side preserve its status in the Liam MacCarthy Cup, something they did again this year thanks to a surprise victory over Antrim.

It got better with last Saturday’s performance against Limerick in the qualifiers when they led until the 64th minute and Rigney, who was operating under a one-year term, is certain to have his tenure extended.

Proactive underage programmes in the county are also beginning to show buds of promise at minor and U21 levels and Rigney believes the future could be bright for the current senior panel as well.

“The most important thing to remember is that the majority of the panel is still only 21/22. What is crucial now is that this group of players is kept together as I have a panel now that is doing everything I look for and that wasn’t the case a year or even four months ago.”

Leinster final scoring hero Martin Comerford is Kilkenny’s main injury worry ahead of their All-Ireland semi-final tie on August 9.

Comerford broke a finger in a club match with O’Loughlin Gaels the weekend after the provincial decider, and with Brian Hogan and Noel Hickey having shaken off shoulder and groin injuries respectively, Comerford is the primary doubt for boss Brian Cody.

There was some welcome news on the injury front for Waterford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald yesterday with the confirmation that teenage defender Noel Connors is likely to be available for selection for Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final showdown with Galway.

Speculation that Ken McGrath would make a sensational return after missing the Munster semi-final replay against Limerick and the Munster final against Tipperary have been firmly scotched.

McGrath hasn’t even resumed light training and a possible August 16 All-Ireland semi-final date is being given as the earliest possible date for his return to action.

Kieran McGeeney has a number of fitness concerns ahead of Kildare’s All-Ireland SFC qualifier with neighbours Wicklow in Portlaoise on Saturday.

The beaten Leinster finalists are monitoring the progress of Eamonn Callaghan, Mikey Conway and James Kavanagh.

Kavanagh has a tight hamstring but is optimistic that he will be able to take his place in the team.

Conway has been troubled by a knee injury that forced him to sit out the Leinster quarter-final win over Wexford.

Killian Brennan’s season has gone from bad to worse as he will not be able to take his place on the bench due to a torn hamstring. Last year’s captain has been a bit-part player this season, with Rob Kelly’s progress shunting him back to fourth-choice midfielder. Squad members Willie Heffernan and Philip Hennessy are also out of contention. On a more positive note, Keith Cribbin, has returned to full training after a lengthy absence.

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