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Clare’s senior hurlers have been dealt a major setback with defender Patrick O’Connor sustaining what is believed to be a serious knee injury.

O’Connor picked up the injury during a challenge game with Limerick at LIT Gaelic Grounds on Friday night. Both sides fielded experimental line-ups, The Clare Echo understands with Limerick emerging victorious.

Scans to determine the extent of the injury have yet to be completed but it is feared that the damage could be season-ending. Sources close to the Clare hurling camp fear that it is a cruciate ligament injury.

This would represent a mammoth blow to the Banner defence, many supporters had been expecting the 2013 All-Ireland winning-back to line out in the full-back line in the Munster championship against Waterford.

It would also pose a severe loss for Tubber who are hoping to bounce back from their Clare IHC final disappointment last season.

The Tubber defender had yet to feature for Brian Lohan’s side in their three outings of the Allianz National Hurling League this year. Alongside Tony Kelly, O’Connor was viewed as one of Clare’s best players in the qualifier win over Wexford last year which secured their place in the quarter-finals, he had been dropped for the game previously when they narrowly defeated Eddie Brennan’s Laois.

Captain of the Clare side during Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor’s three year tenure in charge of the county hurlers which included reaching two Munster finals and the All-Ireland semi-final of 2018.

He made his championship debut under Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin in 2011 and had been a regular fixture in the back-line for Davy Fitzgerald’s five year stint in charge and he maintained a starting jersey when Moloney and O’Connor succeeded the Sixmilebridge man.

Should the scans confirm what is viewed to be a worst case scenario, Lohan will once again be left without one of his most experienced players for the championship. Captain John Conlon was unavailable for the 2020 campaign having picked up a cruciate ligament injury in March during the Shannon’s man first year in charge.

Now, the Fitzgibbon Cup manager must plan for 2021 without the longest serving member of the Clare defence.

Clare are back in Allianz NHL action next Saturday when they travel to Parnell Park to face Dublin.

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