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Star Clare forward set to miss hurling league but All-Ireland club finalists available for Cork clash

Mixed news for the league champions ahead of tomorrow night’s trip to Páirc Uí Rinn.

pjimage (4) Clare will be without Conor McGrath on Saturday but can call upon Tony Kelly. Source: INPHO

FORWARD STAR CONOR McGrath looks set to miss Clare’s entire Allianz hurling league campaign.

McGrath, a 2013 All-Ireland senior medallist, is rehabbing following surgery on a serious shoulder injury sustained playing for Cratloe against Clonlara in last year’s county senior hurling semi-final.

And while 25-year-old McGrath is set to return to training in the coming weeks, he will be eased gently back into action and given all the time he needs to fully recover.

David McInerney is due back in Ireland at the end of the month after travelling abroad – and he may not see any league action either.

McInerney missed much of the 2016 season with a troublesome back problem and was advised by medics to take an extended break.

Clare have other injury problems to contend with but Moloney and side-kick Gerry O’Connor have been boosted by the availability of the Ballyea contingent for tomorrow’s Division 1A opener away to Cork.

Tony Kelly celebrates with Paul Flanagan Ballyea players Tony Kelly and Paul Flanagan celebrating last Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Moloney explained that with Clare’s injury list, they simply had to call upon players from the All-Ireland club finalists.

He said: “Ballyea, to be fair, have been really excellent and have allowed them to go forward for selection. We’ll take it game by game.”

Patrick Donnellan, Oisin O’Brien and Ian Galvin are on the comeback trail from cruciate knee ligament injuries while Patrick O’Connor, Darach Honan and Conor Ryan are also unavailable for selection this weekend.

Moloney added: “Some of them are back in training and some of them will be close as we go through the league.”

Donal Moloney, Gerry O'Connor and Donal Og Cusack Donal Moloney is joint manager of the Clare hurlers with Gerry O'Connor Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

O’Brien played for Limerick IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup earlier this week and is expected to feature in next week’s quarter-final clash with UCD.

But Clare will not gamble on his fitness by asking the corner back to participate in league games at the same time.

Moloney said: “We had basically agreed with LIT that the game against Waterford IT would be his first game.

“They were under pressure as well to get him back. We won’t load him with three games in a week – he’ll be out again on Tuesday.”

Former captain Donnellan is back in training after a year out with cruciate ligament damage and Conor Ryan is also close to a return, Moloney added.

Clare, the current league champions, are somewhat depleted for the visit to Cork but Moloney is targeting a positive start to the new campaign.

He reflected: “Every game is going to be an extreme challenge but it will definitely strengthen us for the championship.

“We’re looking for certain aspects of performance, in terms of how we want to play, that we can actually be effective, and secondly that new guys can put their hands up for specific positions on the field. They’re the things we’re looking for out of this.”

And Moloney acknowledged that Clare’s standing as champions provides great encouragement ahead of a title defence.

He said: “What the guys achieved last year – the management and players – was really, really good. In that first half of the year, all the way up to the June Bank Holiday weekend, Clare were going really well, battled through the league and won it.

Pat O'Connor celebrates Clare captain Cian Dillon celebrates their league final replay triumph. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“To win it after 38 years as well was a massive achievement and I remember back in the 197’0s, the League was almost a Holy Grail and such a measurement of success at that point in time.

“Maybe it has diminished a little bit in value in the interim but there’s not many trophies around for people to win and for Clare to win the League is something that should never be undervalued.”

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