WHILE Dáire O’Leary is ruled out of this weekend’s Allianz HL Division 1 final between Cork and Waterford, Seán O’Donoghue will be available again.
Full-back O’Leary was forced off at half-time in last week’s semi-final win at home to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the Watergrasshill man won’t be fit in time for Saturday night’s clash at FBD Semple Stadium (7.15pm). It’s rough luck on O’Leary, who missed last year’s All-Ireland U20 decider against Galway with a broken collarbone, but the Rebels do at least have the consolation of O’Donoghue’s return.
Having built on a good 2021 with a series of strong performances in the league, the Inniscarra defender missed the games against Wexford and Kilkenny with a groin problem but he will be back. Tim O’Mahony was used as a sub in the semi-final, sustaining an injury during the second half, but manager Kieran Kingston hopes to have him available.
“From an injury point of view, Seán is good to go but there are two concerns,” he says.
“Daire O’Leary is definitely out – he got a foot injury in the first half last Saturday night, that’s why we replaced him, and he won’t be involved this Saturday.
“Tim O’Mahony picked up a bad knock in the second half on Saturday and he’ll have to be assessed nearer the game. We’re hopeful he’ll be good to go and, other than that, everybody else is fit.”
The county has not won the league since 1998 – when Waterford were beaten in the final – though Cork’s last final appearance, in 2015, saw defeat at the hands of the Déise.
The league final comes just 15 days ahead of Cork’s championship opener at home to Limerick, a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final, but Kingston doesn’t feel that it is a negative imposition on the schedule, especially as the return of the round-robin Munster SHC format means quick turnarounds between matches.
“We said at the start of the league that, in every game, we’d try to be as competitive as we possibly could,” he says.
“This Saturday is exactly the same: it’s two weeks out from championship, which is secondary, but at the end of the day we want to be as competitive as we possibly can be, focus on giving a good performance again and see where it takes us, irrespective of the fact that it’s the last league game and it’s obviously the final.
“The championship will put the same demands on us in terms of going from game to game. You’re going to have knocks, you’re going to have injuries, you’re going to have rotation forced on you, maybe, as much as anything else.
“This is great preparation for that and inter-county hurlers want to play hurling. They want to play games and they train to play games. They want to be involved in big games, they want to be involved in competitive games and I don’t think any inter-county hurler would complain because they have a game every couple of weeks, high-intensity games.
“That’s why they play and I wouldn’t see that as a negative, we would see it as a positive because you can’t beat games. That game we had last Saturday night, you can’t replicate that in training or a challenge match – not just the game itself but just the whole build-up to it and the crowd and all that goes with it.”