Kilkenny were easy winners of Sunday’s National Hurling League final against Cork by a score of 3-21 to 0-16, but victory at Semple Stadium came at a price.
Hurler of the Year Michael Fennelly was stretchered off the pitch with a fracture to his right ankle as the Cats easily accounted for the Rebels in a one-sided final.
Fennelly was due to see a specialist on Wednesday, and Kilkenny secretary Ned Quinn told the Irish Sun, “We will have to wait to see, but at the moment he would have to be doubtful for the first game in the Leinster Championship next month.”
Fennelly joins Richie Power, Henry Shefflin, Michael Rice, Noel Hickey and Aidan Fogarty on Kilkenny’s growing injury list, but they still had too much for Cork after a blistering start in Thurles.
Forward TJ Reid admitted, “We don’t want more lads getting injured. But if you look at the bench there are a lot of strong lads there.
“We won the league final and we will have four or five lads coming back so hopefully we’ll be stronger come championship.”
Goal scorer Reid attributed his team’s ruthlessness to the battle for places in the side.
“I’m 24 now and I’m pushing on. I want to be getting a place on the team,” said Reid.
“Brian Cody always tells us that when we get the jersey we have to give 100 percent so we can hang on to it for the championship. Come championship, places will be up for grabs.
“You have to be performing well because if you’re not you simply won’t be on. I have to keep myself right and perform to my abilities.”
Kilkenny coach Brian Cody was his usual modest self after his team’s latest domination of a big game from start to finish.
“It was a good performance. I’m not trying to underplay it or overplay it, we went out and had a huge challenge,” he said.
“Cork were fancied by many people, understandably so, and the last day we met in the league they were better than us so I’m very happy with the way the game went.”
Cork boss Jimmy Barry Murphy described the nature of Sunday’s heavy defeat as a wake-up call for his relatively young side.
“It is a reality check. I’ve been on the receiving end of Kilkenny before but it is just very disappointing to be beaten by so much,” said Barry Murphy.
“I am disappointed for the team and the supporters. We were always going to get knocks on the way. We’re developing a young team and I’m just disappointed we didn’t show what we’re capable of today.”
Barry Murphy does feel the experience will stand to his players as they seek to bounce back in the upcoming Munster championship.
He added, “I think we were very nervous early on. We seemed a bit over-awed by the occasion but maybe it is a bit of a learning process for some of the lads.
“It is a steep-learning curve and we got a big knockback today. We can take a lot of positives from the league but the comprehensiveness of the defeat today certainly knocks confidence. I hope it won’t set the players back too much.”
Cork defender John Gardiner believes his team’s league win over Kilkenny earlier in the season played a big part in Sunday’s reversal.
He said, “Kilkenny got a bit of a rude awakening in Pairc Ui Chaoimh and you could see it there. They weren’t going to lie down. They were very, very physical.”
KILKENNY striker Henry Shefflin has admitted he is still in the dark about a date for his comeback after shoulder surgery.
“I am not going to go back playing unless I am right. I don’t think I could face another long lay-off if I got injured,” Shefflin told the Irish Independent.
“I don’t know at the minute when I might be able to return. I haven’t done enough work to know. If I got a couple of weeks of good training and felt good, I would definitely be in with a chance.”
MICKEY Harte is to remain in charge of the Tyrone football team until the end of the 2015 championship after agreeing a new deal with the county board.
Harte told tyronegaa.ie, “It is a great privilege to be asked by the county committee to take charge of the Tyrone senior football team and I gladly accepted that offer.”
“To be asked to manage the best players that your county has to offer is still a wonderful honor.”
DOWN’S star forward Benny Coulter could miss the Ulster Championship campaign after breaking his ankle in a club game with Mayobridge. Dan Gordon is also a doubt for the opening game against Fermanagh . . .
GRAHAM Geraghty’s return to the Meath team could be over after he admitted defeat in his battle to overcome an Achilles injury in time for this year’s Leinster Championship campaign . . .
SETANTA O hAilpin’s Australian Rules career could be over after he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for Greater Western Sydney on Sunday . . .
LEGENDARY forward Dessie Dolan looks unlikely to return to the Westmeath squad and is expected to announce his retirement in the near future . . .
WATERFORD youngster Pauric Mahony faces four months out of hurling after undergoing groin surgery last weekend . . .
JOE Sheridan marked his return to the Meath team with two goals as they beat Westmeath in a challenge game on Monday . . .
JIM Gavin’s Dublin staged a second-half recovery to beat Roscommon in the All-Ireland under-21 football final on Sunday . . .
NIALL Smith, Richie Dalton, Ross Brady, Thomas Deehan and John Reynolds have re-joined the Offaly senior football squad . . .
DUBLIN’S Paul Schutte has sustained a knee injury that could rule him out of the Leinster Championship campaign . . .
FORMER Galway footballer Paul Clancy is the new manager of Westmeath’s All-Ireland runners-up Garrycastle.
SECOND best was good enough for once for Rory McIlroy on Sunday as he was beaten by Rickie Fowler at Quail Hollow but still returned to number one in the world rankings.
McIlroy was one of three players beaten by Fowler at the first hole of the playoff at the Wells Fargo championship.
But second spot was good enough to see him overhaul Luke Donald at the top of the rankings again.
“That’s nice. It’s a little consolation,” McIlroy said after his first outing since the Masters. “I would rather win the tournament, but yeah, it’s good.
“I want to try and play well for the next few weeks and try and solidify my spot there at number one, and hopefully start by doing that next week and giving myself another chance to win.”
LEINSTER and Ireland back Luke Fitzgerald will miss the Heineken Cup final against Ulster after a neck injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said, “Obviously to lose a player of Luke’s pedigree at such a crucial time of the season is a massive blow, not just for the team and our supporters, but also for the player himself.
“Luke has been in fine form recently and as well as his capabilities on the field, he is a positive and popular presence within the dressingroom.
“Knowing Luke, he will be determined to overcome this setback and aggressively tackle his rehab to regain full fitness and he will continue to benefit from the full support of Leinster rugby and the IRFU during that timeframe.”
In other rugby news, Munster will travel to play the Ospreys in the RaboDirect Celtic League semifinal in Wales on Friday night after their 36-8 win over Ulster at Thomond Park last Saturday.
Leinster beat the Dragons 22-18 to book their semifinal berth and will now host Glasgow on Saturday night.
Connacht’s season ended with a 24-3 defeat away to Glasgow last weekend.
RACING: Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien enjoyed a double last weekend when Camelot won the 2000 Guineas and outsider Homecoming Queen sprang a 25-1 shock in the 1000 Guineas...
RUGBY: Paul O’Connell is a major doubt for Ireland’s summer tour to New Zealand after picking up a knee injury on Munster duty last weekend...
RUGBY: Munster have appointed Canterbury coach Rob Penney as their new first team boss...
RUGBY: Out-half Ian Humphreys is to leave Ulster for London Irish at the end of the season.