Shields to slot back in for Cork

Michael Shields, right corner-back in the Cork team that lost last year's All-Ireland SFC final, could be back in county colours next month after his surprise return from Australia.

Michael Shields, right corner-back in the Cork team that lost last year's All-Ireland SFC final, could be back in county colours next month after his surprise return from Australia.

Shields was back home in Cork last weekend after suddenly ending his stint playing for Australian Rules club the Carlton Blues.

The St Finbarr's clubman, who turned 22 last month, was headhunted by the Blues after starring for Cork last season.

Ddespite a successful trial period, which led to him signing in November, and the presence of fellow Corkmen Setanta and Aisake O hAilpín at the club, the midfield prospect has insisted Aussie Rules is just not for him.

Shields was Carlton's fourth round pick in this year's rookie draft but despite giving it his all, he failed to make a senior appearance for the Blues and homesickness also played a part in his decision to quit.

Ending his time Down Under, he said: "I miss home and I've been fighting that for a while and while I could have battled it out for another two or three months, I had made my decision.

"While realising the game wasn't for me, I have a greater appreciation for the game of AFL.

"And while I'm disappointed that everything didn't work out perfectly with Carlton, it was still a great experience and one that I will never forget," Shields added.

Having annexed the Munster title for the 35th time earlier this month - defeating great rivals Kerry in the process - Cork are currently preparing for an All-Ireland quarter-final on either August 9 or 10.

With forward Kevin McMahon (dislocated elbow) and defensive trio Graham Canty (knee), Noel O'Leary (shoulder) and Paudie Kissane (arm) all on the Rebels' injury list, Shields could come into the starting line-up sooner rather than later.

Cork manager Conor Counihan would welcome the 2007 All-Ireland U-21 winner back with open arms.

"We have been trying to strengthen the panel and if Michael has something to offer we will certainly look at that," he said in a newspaper interview.

"He will probably train with us before the week is out. You never have enough options."

Commenting on his injured players, Counihan added: "Hopefully they're going in the right direction. But there is a question mark as to whether it will come in time for the quarter-final or not.

"I'd give them all a chance, obviously some less than others. I won't put the kibosh on any of them by saying they might be alright and then it goes the wrong way."

Meanwhile, Shields' former Carlton team-mate Setanta O'hAilpín has had his AFL season disrupted by a calf injury.

The former Cork hurler, who has kicked three goals in 12 appearances for the Blues so far this year, is expected to be sidelined for the next two to three weeks.

His younger brother Aisake, who is playing with Carlton's feeder club the Northern Bullants ahead of his full debut, is also on the injury list with a strained knee.

However, Kerryman Tadhg Kennelly has given Ireland's International Rules management team a boost by deciding to postpone a shoulder operation so that he can play in October's series against Australia.

The Sydney Swans star, the only Irishman to so far win an AFL Grand final, will play out the remainder of the Premiership campaign with the shoulder injury.

In a recent game against Hawthorn, Kennelly dislocated his left shoulder twice and had to have it 'popped back into place' by Swans team doctor Nathan Gibbs.

The 27-year-old made his 150th AFL appearance for Sydney against Carlton last weekend and will decide after his current contract runs out at the end of 2009 whether to return to a Gaelic football career or not.

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