Marc O Sé limped out of a training match last Saturday with an ankle injury to join a casualty list that also includes his older brother Tomás who has hampered by a knee problem, Austin Stacks player Daniel Bohane and key attacker Colm Cooper.
“We’re not too sure yet until we look at fellas this evening at training,” said O’Connor last night. “We have a few worrying injuries, but we’ll see as the week goes on. We had a hectic club schedule the last few weeks and it’s inevitable that fellas would pick up injuries. While any of them don’t seem to be major or long-term, they’re still worrying for next Sunday. Obviously fellas will have to play some sort of football this week or else they won’t be ready for Sunday.”
O’Connor has described this spring as ‘challenging’ as retirements, injuries, panel withdrawals and defections to Australian Rules all contributed to stretching Kerry’s playing resources, but believes it is up to the strength of his side’s panel to cope effectively. Instead of jostling in the upper echelons of the league table, Kerry found themselves battling to avoid relegation on the last day of spring action against Monaghan.
“You’d wish that you’d have a clean bill of health the whole way but these are the things that you’ve to deal with. That’s what panels are there for. You’d be hoping if a fella steps out, another guy will step in. Certainly it has been challenging this year. Our panel this year for the league wasn’t half as strong as our panel last year.
“We’d a massive panel last year and that’s why we ended up winning the league pretty handily. This year has been a bit of a struggle and we were just happy to stay up on the last day. Our panel wouldn’t be as strong or deep as it was last year and it’ll be interesting to see can we overcome that.”
Kerry will be strong favourites for Sunday’s clash but O’Connor protests that the rate of improvement Tipperary have undergone under John Evans illustrates that they will be sticky opponents. Yet he is glad of an early game in championship rather than his side being in cold storage until June.
“Having to travel away and go to Tipperary’s backyard is going to be a tough one. The facts speak for themselves. Evans has done great work with them, they’ve two promotions, they’re playing a distinct brand of football and he’s certainly getting a great response from them. There’s going to be nothing soft for Kerry there on Sunday. We’d know that Evans would have Tipperary well-organised. He knows Kerry inside out.
“But we’re happy to have a game early in the championship. Last year I think the fact we had a long break between the end of the league and the start of the championship didn’t help our progress. It’s going to be a tough ask and we just hope that we’ll put in a decent performance and get a result out of it.”
Meanwhile, the Cork hurlers may have suffered defeat in the recent Allianz NHL Division 1 final, but they have emerged on top in the GAA’s Hurling Fair Play Index after the spring and receive a €10,000 prize for their Panel Development Fund.
Over the course of their eight game campaign Cork players received just 12 cautions, at an average of 1.50 per game, which saw them top the table from Waterford in second place. Two other league finalists, Division 2 runners-up Clare and Division 1 champions Galway were also extremely disciplined throughout their campaigns and finished in joint third place.