How close are each county to finding their Championship team?

The big push for summer places is on...
How close are each county to finding their Championship team?

Limerick and Dublin

The return of the Na Piarsaigh contingent has brought Limerick up to virtually full strength. David Breen isn’t available this year while Donal O’Grady has retired. Declan Hannon and Tom Condon would hope to return to the lineup after missing the Dublin game with injuries. Seamus Hickey was a late withdrawal also and will surely start in the Championship. But boss TJ Ryan probably has around a dozen near certainties at this stage. All the indicators are that Dublin will be without Conal Keaney for the Championship.

The Ballyboden St Enda’s man hasn’t played this year having featured instead for his club’s footballers in their successful All-Ireland run. He’s tipped to retire, though Shane Durkin may return.

Defenders Conor Dooley and Eoghan O’Donnell have probably forced their way into Dublin’s summer plans while Niall McMorrow and Eamon Dillon have locked down forward places. Ryan O’Dwyer has yet to return and will battle Sean McGrath for a half-forward spot.

Clare and Tipperary

Clare were yesterday without over a third of the team that started last year’s qualifier defeat to Cork. It goes without saying David McInerney, Tony Kelly, Colin Ryan, and Shane O’Donnell will come back into the team for the Munster semi-final against Waterford. Podge Collins, Jack Browne, Seadna Morey, and Shane Golden will also push hard for a starting berth.

Of the Tipperary team that started in Ennis, it might be argued Darren Gleeson, Jason Forde, Kieran Bergin, and the injured Patrick “Bonnar” Maher are the four who will slot back into the 15 come May 22 when they face Cork. Gleeson recently picked up a slight injury, which meant he wasn’t risked. Michael Breen certainly appears to have cemented his position in midfield.

Cork and Galway

Galway learned something definitive yesterday - Jonathan Glynn, so impressive last year, will not figure for them in this year’s championship. That means at least one place is up for grabs on the Galway senior side this season.

Apart from that expect no huge changes to the Tribe’s starting fifteen compared to last year. Conor Whelan was likely moved to full-forward yesterday to ask questions of Stephen McDonnell, having impressed on the Corkman earlier this year, but Whelan will more likely figure on the Galway half-forward line this summer.

From Skehill to Aidan Harte it’s difficult to see many options appearing for Micheal Donoghue at the back, though Iarla Tannian and Cyril Donnellan, who both came on as subs yesterday, may figure as starters when the ground begins to harden.

For Cork, most Leeside observers will feel they could name thirteen or fourteen of the championship side now with some confidence. The only new face is Christopher Joyce, who missed last season with a cruciate injury, but he’ll hold his place even if Mark Ellis makes it back from a serious arm injury.

Anthony Nash, impressive yesterday, may now have done enough to hold off the impressive Patrick Collins for the goalkeeper’s jersey for the Tipperary game, particularly when his two ‘assists’ for the Cork goals are factored in. Manager Kieran Kingston might be pencilling in some names this evening on his championship side, but a parallel question may arise about the players he needs to trim from his panel.

Wexford and Waterford

Wexford’s showing against Waterford yesterday was all the more notable for the fact that Derek McGrath’s league champions are operating with almost as close to a full deck as is possible right now. Darragh Fives may well return to fitness in time to make a case for himself in the defence but time is against him. Other considerations remain, among them the best slot for Austin Gleeson. Liam Dunne is another manager with little in the way of reshaping to do as the championship looms. Shaun Murphy may work his way back into the Wexford half-back line when he comes good from injury while David Redmond could play some part in midfield.

Kilkenny and Offaly

One presumes Brian Cody has a strong idea of his Championship side though it would be a brave man to gamble on what that lineup might be. Without Richie Hogan and TJ Reid yesterday, an experimental Kilkenny still beat Offaly by 24 points. Kevin Kelly, Liam Blanchfield and Jonjo Farrell are pushing hard for places up front. At the back, Rob Lennon and Conor O’Shea are in the mix. Michael Fennelly has some ground to make up after yet another injury.

Unfortunately for Offaly they put out close to their strongest side and still came up well short. Manager Eamonn Kelly said he is still assessing a couple of injured players but the side that face Westmeath on May 1 in the Leinster qualifier series may not be too different to the one that ran out at Nowlan Park.

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