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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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Kilkenny midfield 'warrior' Fennelly backed to return this summer after rupturing Achilles

Henry Shefflin reckons his clubmate will face a race against time before Leinster opener on 10 June.

Michael Fennelly is stretchered off in Thurles last August.
Michael Fennelly is stretchered off in Thurles last August.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

HENRY SHEFFLIN HAS backed Michael Fennelly to return for Kilkenny this summer as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, but the 10-time All-Ireland senior winner believes it will be a race against time for Fennelly to be fit for the Leinster semi-final on 10 June.

Fennelly has not lined out for the Cats since suffering the serious injury last August in Kilkenny’s All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Waterford.

Having missed the entire league campaign, Kilkenny will be hoping to have the 2011 Hurler of the Year available for their opening championship outing on 10 June against the winners of the quarter-final between Wexford and a round-robin qualifier.

“I can see it (Fennelly returning) in the summer yeah, what date I don’t know.

“Whether early June is too early, I’m not quite sure yet. It’s amazing those long-term injuries, you have them and for four, five, six months, it can be very slow but then you can make ground very quickly so hopefully that’s what will happen with Michael.

“I haven’t spoken to him in a couple of weeks. The last time I was speaking to him, he was struggling and was taking his time. I think I’ve heard it’s coming on but it’s going to be a race against time I would imagine.”

As Ballyhale Shamrocks clubmates, Shefflin is well aware of the injury woes that have hampered Fennelly in recent years. He believes Fennelly’s plight is linked to a key issue affecting Kilkenny after observing their league campaign this spring.

“He’s had a lot of ankle (injuries), hips and broken bones. His back has obviously caused him a lot of issues. The Achilles tendon is by all accounts a very serious injury.

“He’s had a lot but look he’s a warrior, he’s a warrior on the field and off the field he obviously has to put in that time and dedication.

Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly on the pitch before the game Henry Shefflin and Michael Fennelly pictured before the 2013 Leinster semi-final between Kilkenny and Dublin. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“I think it (the league) showcased again Kilkenny can’t carry injuries. They’ve had a lot of injuries, even players that people mightn’t know, they’ve struggled with panels of players.

“Kilkenny need all their top players playing well and on the field of play influencing this year’s championship.”

Kilkenny’s panel has continued to evolve. The retirements of Jackie Tyrrell and Eoin Larkin last winter underlined how many stalwarts have departed over the past few seasons.

“That’s time, that’s the way it evolves,” admits Shefflin.

“There has been a big clearout in the panel. Even when some of us were there and some of us weren’t playing, we were still part of the panel.

“It takes time for new players to come in, there’s been a big influx, there’s a lot of U21 players in there. The whole dynamic of the panel and the spirit and the craic in the dressing room. That is different.

“I’ve no doubt it will come together, as long as they’ve Brian there, it’s keeping that frequency going. Get the main players back, all you need is a couple more players coming through.

“Richie Leahy, Jason Cleere, Paddy Deegan all got game time (in the league). Those kind of players, I don’t think they should all be ready for the championship, but I definitely think some of them will have an impact in the championship.”

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Henry Shefflin was speaking at today’s launch of the 2017 Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge in Croke Park.

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Fintan O'Toole

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