CORK and Kilkenny will be without a number of key players for their eagerly awaited NHL opener at Páirc Uí Chaoimh this Saturday night.
Anthony Nash and Lorcán McLoughlin will be involved earlier in the day with Kanturk in the All-Ireland club IHC semi-final against Middletown-Na Fianna from Armagh, whilst Darren Browne, one of the newcomers on the panel will also be club-tied.
Stephen McDonnell has opted out of the plans for this season while Patrick Horgan is suspended for the game as a result of his sending off in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final with Waterford.
Damien Cahalane is an injury doubt, team boss John Meyler revealed after picking up a knock.
Mark Ellis and Conor Spillane have only recently returned to training while UCC's Fitzgibbon Cup players Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston missed out on the loss to UCD on Wednesday afternoon, though Darragh Fitzgibbon was in top form.
Kilkenny boss, Brian Cody will be minus some key players as well with Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly away on army duty while Richie Hogan will not figure either because of injury. TJ Reid is also considered a doubtful starter because of injury and he didn’t feature in the Walsh Cup final loss to Wexford last Sunday.
Patrick Collins will replace Nash in goal for Cork while there could be a return to first-team duty for Conor O’Sullivan.
Eoin Cadogan should figure on his comeback to the hurling set-up at full-back, either at the outset or during the game while there could be a start for Tim O’Mahony from Newtownshandrum. Dean Brosnan and Rob O’Shea should be in contention too for starting places.
The recent bad weather has been “factored in” to Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s preparations for the national league double-header at the Cork stadium on Saturday.
Stadium manager Bob Ryan describes the double-header as “a huge night” and that groundstaff are work daily to ensure that the sod is in perfect condition.
“That’s all factored in - there’s work being carried out daily on the pitch and we consider it a huge night, the two games.
“It’s the first time there’ll be a game under LED floodlights, which is the top quality in floodlighting - it has to be at that standard for high definition television coverage, so it’s the same standard that you get in the Premier League.”
A large crowd is expected and tickets are available currently on www.tickets.ie or from participating SuperValu stores.
Ryan added that more facilities are scheduled to open soon in the stadium: “In early spring, we will open a new café - Café at the Páirc - overlooking the impressive 4G pitch”.
Meanwhile, in his annual report, GAA Director General, Padraig Duffy made reference to the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh and of the cost involved.
“The cost of constructing the stadium went significantly beyond budget and managing the debt will pose a financial challenge for Cork. "But I have no doubt that in time the effort, foresight and vision of those who brought this major project to completion will be acknowledged and appreciated."