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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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Injury setbacks for Waterford's Devine and O'Keeffe while hope not lost of Bennett playing in 2018

Derek McGrath’s side start their league campaign against Wexford on Sunday.

WATERFORD BOSS DEREK McGrath is planning without forward Tom Devine and goalkeeper Stephen O’Keeffe for the start of their league campaign while he remains hopeful that Shane Bennett will feature for their squad in 2018.

pjimage Tom Devine, Stephen O'Keeffe and Shane Bennett will miss next Sunday's league opener. Source: INPHO

Devine, who spent last summer in the USA, tore his hamstring while in Fitzgibbon Cup action for UCC in their victory against Cork IT last Thursday night.

O’Keeffe has been battling a similar injury since Ballygunner’s club campaign concluded with a Munster final loss to Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh last November.

“He (Tom Devine) will probably be a month out,” revealed McGrath today.

“He’s having a scan today or tomorrow (Tuesday) so depending on the severity of the tear or the pull.

“He went off early, about 16 minutes into the UCC match. I went into him at half time, I thought it was an ankle injury.

“The language he used himself was felt he had done ‘a right job’ on it. Subsequent to that it’s not as bad, but certainly (it) will be a couple of weeks.

“He’ll probably miss the bones of UCC’s Fitzgibbon campaign now as well which is a pity for him.

“Stephen O’Keeffe has a hamstring concern (that will) probably keep him out of the first game, maybe the first two games – he has it since the Na Piarsaigh match.

“Noel (Connors) has been very sick with the flu. It could keep him out of Sunday (against Wexford). He only came back training with us Sunday morning, he’s been very sick.

“Other than that, we are relatively clear. Michael Walsh has only been back with us since after Christmas as well so we are okay other than that.”

Allianz Hurling League 2018 Launch Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath at the 2018 Allianz hurling league launch. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

2016 All-Ireland U21 winner Bennett is still on a break from the game and while McGrath is conscious of the heavy workload the Ballysaggart man has had in recent seasons, he is determined to try to ensure that he can call on his services for this summer’s championship.

“I met Shane last Monday. He’s just taking a break for the minute but we are hopeful he will be back at some stage.

“He started a new electrical apprenticeship, he played a bit of soccer for the winter and things like that.

“So (it’s) just a bit of time off and we’re hopeful – we’re not going to leave it go easy. I think Shane needs hurling and we certainly need him.

“I said previously that Kilkenny, Tipp, Galway, they are probably in a different space than us over the years in that they don’t have to promote straight away whereas we felt, particularly on the back of a bad league campaign in 2014, that our best policy was to maybe bring the minors straight in.

“We brought Shane and Patrick Curran and a few more of them in. People don’t realise, Shane is a year younger so he was brought in very young.

“Even if you go back to the 2015 championship campaign, he played two league games with us (and) went out again to do his Leaving Cert (and) came back in with us.

“So there is a certain pattern that we are trying to follow that will allow him to be in a good space.

Shane Bennett celebrates scoring his side's opening goal Shane Bennett celebrates hitting the net for Waterford against Dublin in 2015. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“(We’ll) leave him alone a while, you’re conscious of other fellas mucking in for the winter as well.

“The type of approach over the years has allowed us to encourage fellas to do what they want, when they want within a certain time-space where you actually make a decision on it.

“The league could be over 11 March, or you could go to 24 March depending on how you’re going. There is probably an eight-week gap then, even a 12-week gap before you play. We’ve a bye in the first round to 27 May.

“There’s an opportunity there to change up things in advance of the championship which we would look (at) depending on how things are or how the mood is in the camp.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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