SEAN Powter’s inclusion in the Cork team to play Kildare in the opening division 2 south league game against Kildare in Thurles on Saturday afternoon at 3.30 is a welcome boost.
The 23-years-old Douglas player’s availability, having missed the Munster final defeat to Tipperary in late November, bucks a worrying trend of injuries, which have ruled out a plethora of players.
Powter’s injury issues are well-documented at this stage and is long overdue a run of consecutive games as selector Sean Hayes eluded to during the week.
“Touch wood when I’m talking about this,” he started. “At the moment Sean is flying and I hope for him and for us that he gets through the whole season.
“If we win nothing and he plays well it will be good for Sean and good for Cork football.
“But, like everything else, you just have to hope for the best and it’s so far so good. He’s doing very well and training hard,” Hayes commented.
Powter played 75 minutes of the extra-time semi-final win over Kerry, popping up to score an invaluable point in the shock 1-12 to 0-13 triumph.
However, the experienced Mark Collins and Luke Connolly in addition to Maurice Shanley are ruled together with Killian O’Hanlon and Aidan Browne, who both suffered season-ending cruciate injuries in training recently.
On the other side of the coin, Liam O’Donovan is due to return soon having suffered a similar type injury last season, when excelling at right half-back.
“He won’t be back for this game, but we’re hoping he will be available for the Laois or Clare games,” Hayes said.
“His nine months’ rehabilitation will be up then and that’s what the medics say, wait nine months.
“Liam’s doing well, but he’s not back just yet. In general there are a few niggling injuries like hamstrings and groin which appears to be the way with other teams, too.
It’s also the first game without Paul Kerrigan, Tomas Clancy and James Loughrey who have all retired.
The team shows seven changes from the Tipperary game, four in defence, one at midfield and two up front.
Only Sean Meehan and Mattie Taylor survive at the back with Kiskeam’s Meehan making his league debut, having played in both championship games in 2020.
There is one newcomer to senior inter-county action in the shape of Knocknagree’s Daniel O’Mahony and there's a recall for Kevin Flahive in the left corner.
Paul Walsh is named unusually at right half-back with Kevin O’Driscoll partnering captain Ian Maguire at midfield.
Sean White and Cathail O’Mahony, Cork’s leading scorer in division 3 last season, come in for Collins and Connolly in a forward line that has John O’Rourke listed in the right corner.
The bench is notable for the inclusion of newcomers Mark Cronin and Blake Murphy from the U20s two years ago as well as Cill na Martra’s Dan Dineen, who played with Cork at under-age level, too.
Brian Hartnett, one of the stars of the U20 All-Ireland success, is also included, having debuted in the league last year.
Kildare manager Jack O’Connor has brought in nine newcomers to his panel, but the former Kerry boss won’t have forwards Mattie Byrne or Ben McCormack while Fergal Conway is an injury doubt.
After losing to Meath in last year’s Leinster semi-final, O’Connor stressed the importance of improving players’ conditioning levels.
“We need to get to a level where we can sustain our first-half performance for two halves,” he said.
CORK: MA Martin (Nemo Rangers); D O’Mahony (Knocknagree), S Meehan (Kiskeam), K Flahive (Douglas); P Walsh (Kanturk), S Powter (Douglas), M Taylor (Mallow); I Maguire (St Finbarr’s), captain, K O’Driscoll (Tadhg MacCarthaighs); C O’Callaghan (Eire Og), S White (Clonkilty), R Deane (Bantry Blues); J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), B Hurley (Castlehaven), C O’Mahony (Mitchelstown). Subs: A Casey (Kiskeam), S Ryan (St Finbarr’s), P Ring (Aghabullogue), K O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), T Corkery (Cill na Martra), C Kiely (Ballincollig), B Hartnett (Douglas), C Sheehan (Eire Og), D Dineen (Cill na Martra), M Cronin (Nemo Rangers), B Murphy (St Vincent’s).