The Cork hurlers will be without first-team regulars Sean O’Donoghue, Damien Cahalane, and Conor Lehane for this weekend’s Allianz league visit of Limerick to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
A hamstring strain forced Lehane to depart Sunday’s narrow win over Westmeath after just 12 minutes of action. Manager Kieran Kingston has confirmed the half-forward will likely be sidelined for a fortnight, meaning he’ll not feature against Limerick.
Damien Cahalane is another ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Treatymen, the half-back earning a one-match suspension when picking up a straight red card for his late involvement in a second-half shemozzle at TEG Cusack Park Mullingar.
Corner-back Sean O’Donoghue, who sat out Cork’s trip to the midlands because of a hamstring injury, will not be back in time for their round four fixture.
The absence of the three players affords the Cork management the opportunity to further experiment against unbeaten Limerick, as well as hand game-time to the panel’s younger members. From the 26 who togged against Westmeath, almost half - 12 - are U23.
Returning to the Cork set-up for the visit of Limerick are the four players - Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Robbie O’Flynn, and Shane Kingston - who were rested against Westmeath off the back of their Fitzgibbon Cup exploits for UCC in the middle of last week. Alan Cadogan, also absent against Westmeath, is available this weekend.
“We’ve two games left in the group and as I’ve said many times, each game in this league is really, really difficult, irrespective of whether you’re home or away, or who the opposition is,” said Kieran Kingston.
“We’re trying to get consistency from game to game, that’s dictated by the results you get, but within each game too you want a consistent performance.”
Cork selector Ger Cunningham, meanwhile, reckons Limerick have the strongest panel in the country at present.
"We've two games left so we will probably need a result from one of those [to make the knockout stages]. If we can get a result on Sunday, we'd have a great chance of making a quarter or semi-final later on," said Cunningham.
"Home venue this Sunday, looking forward to bringing Limerick down to Cork. The pitch, I know they have spent a lot of money doing it up, is magnificent. Home matches in the league are important; get the crowd behind us, get the support behind us.
"Sunday is a great challenge and test for us. Probably the best team in the country with their panel at the moment in the way they are able to chop and change. They are bringing in guys who are not weakening the team.
"It'll give us a great idea as to where we are at in relation to some of the players we are trying out and having a look at, that we can test them against the best of the country.
"Limerick look really strong. They seem to be very united and very focused in what they are trying to do this year."