His assistant Brian Hickey will be watching the fitness and form of Cork Constitution’s Anthony Horgan, Donnacha O’Callaghan and team captain Jim Williams as they go through their paces against Buccaneers at Temple Hill. All three are recovering from their long term and recent injuries respectively.
Horgan’s season will finally kick off when he plays on the left wing having received the all-clear on his damaged shoulder in Edinburgh 10 days ago.
Horgan noted: “I have had no problems in training and have been engaging in full contact for over a week. The surgeon told me the injured shoulder is now stronger than the other one.
“That would seem to be the case because I came through a few gruelling and very physical sessions in the last few days.
“I’m jumping out of my skin and the only worry now is that it might rain and I won’t see much of the ball.”
The return of O’Callaghan after a fractured jaw and Williams from a knee injury, is as much a boost for the Cork club as it is for the province.
Con have won both their opening games in the competition and coach Christy Cantillon is hoping to continue the run. “It will be a tough match, I’m sure, but it would take the heat off a bit more if we can get the points,” said Cantillon.
Meanwhile Shannon meet Terenure in what is already deemed a must-win game for both sides if they are to retain top four aspirations. Shannon find themselves in unfamiliar territory - 13th place in the league after two games with just two bonus points to show for their efforts.
But coach Geoff Moylan’s injury woes are set to continue after it was announced this week that John O'Neill is to miss the next 12 weeks. A recurring ankle injury was deemed sufficiently serious to face an operation to repair the damage. Another of Shannon's representative players, Maurice Lawler has his chances of playing this weekend rated at only 50/50. The talented player picked up an ankle injury whilst training with the Munster squad at the beginning of the week.
However the return of John Lacey gives the coach options in the backline. Lacey hasn’t played in two months with an ankle injury.
Up front, the return of the versatile Frankie Roche after a serious facial injury gives the Shannon management front row options at prop and hooker.
James Blaney may well face his brother Brian after both players were named on their respective squads.
Buccaneers have lost centre William Wallace to a clash of heads with scrum-half Chris Keane.
Paddy O’Sullivan moves to the wing and Justin Meagher comes in at inside centre for the trek to Con.
Dungannon coach Andy Earl has blasted the Ulster Branch for its refusal to release fringe players for club duty. Earl takes his side to Clontarf tomorrow for an important All-Ireland League tie, but claims he has been forced to prepare with just half a squad. “How are we expected to get any continuity going if we are training with half a squad?
“I have no problem with the 22, but there are 13 guys in the 35-man Ulster squad that aren’t getting any rugby at all,” said the former All Black star. “How can they be expected to be competitive if they aren’t playing rugby?
“There’s the likes of Nigel Brady, Jan Cunningham and Ciaran Campbell, who aren’t playing regularly with their province, so they should be involved more with their club.
“Ulster don’t have a game this week, so I would have thought the players should have been available to come along to training, not only for the benefit of Ulster, but for the benefit of the clubs. We don’t know who will be available to play for us this weekend.”
An Ulster Branch spokesman said its player release policy is “in accordance with IRFU policy.”
Leinster pair David Quinlan and Ben Willis and hooker Glen van der Wyver are the three additions to the Blackrock outfit that will travel across town for the Dublin derby against St Mary’s College tomorrow.
Galwegians will be without Mervyn Murphy and Nigel Carolan and are awaiting the result of tests on Willie Ruane and Marnus Uijs for the clash against UL/Bohemians at Crowley Park.
UL/BOHEMIANS: C. Gilligan, K. Matthews, N. Lutman, C. Finn, B. Tuohy, I. Costello, D. Malone, M. Harty, G. Ryan, J. Danagher, B. Dineen, M. Porter, C. Fitzgerald, A. Hartigan, J. O'Neill.
CORK CONSTITUTION: D. O'Brien, D. dillon, J. V. Igarza, R. O'Donovan, A. Horgan, B. Ronan, P. McCarthy, G. Murray, J. Fogarty, M. Ross, D. O'Callaghan, S. O'Connor, J. Williams, U. O'Callaghan, J. Murray.