*Tony Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

TONY KELLY is pushing for a place in the Clare starting team for Sunday’s Munster SHC final while David McInerney remains an injury doubt.

Four-time All Star Kelly has yet to start a championship game for Clare in 2024 but that is expected to change this weekend as Brian Lohan’s side lock horns with Limerick for the third successive Munster final and look to win the provincial title for the first time since 1998.

In December, the Ballyea man underwent an operation on his ankle, missing out on the entire Allianz National Hurling League.

He made his first appearance for the county this year on April 21st in the opening round of the Munster championship, coming on a substitute and lifting the crowd in Cusack Park when Clare were leading Limerick 1-15 0-11 but they ended up losing to the All-Ireland champions by three points. He scored two points in this contest.

A slight setback kept the St Flannan’s College teacher out of action for the second round while he was brought on for twenty two and twenty three minutes respectively in Clare’s wins over Waterford and Tipperary scoring 1-0 and 0-2 in these games.

With injury concerns still clouding over the involvement of wing back David McInerney, a return of Kelly to the fold may see Darragh Lohan or Cian Galvin miss out with the potential of Lohan moving to wing back also an option.

After impressing with a composed display in Thurles two weeks ago, Conor Leen is fighting off competition from Rory Hayes and Paul Flanagan to keep a spot at corner back. He is set to join Adam Hogan and Conor Cleary in the full-back line with Eibhear Quilligan between the posts.

Nailed on starters in the Clare attack include Shane O’Donnell, David Fitzgerald and Mark Rodgers while the return of Kelly may see different roles for Peter Duggan and David Reidy with Aidan McCarthy to remain in the full-forward line.

Diarmuid Ryan and John Conlon will occupy roles in the half-back line while Cathal Malone will remain at midfield.

Limerick manager, John Kiely has said it is “highly unlikely” that full-forward Seamus Flanagan will feature in Sunday’s final due to a hamstring injury. “He has to just go now and get his rehab done and there’s no better team of people than the people we have with us to look after him”.

An All Star in 2021, Flanagan has scored 12-103 in over seventy matches for his county since making his senior debut in 2018, three of those goals came in their third round loss to Cork this year.

Doon’s Darragh O’Donovan who has yet to feature in this year’s championship is unlikely to make his 2024 bow this weekend, Kiely stated. “He needs more time, more game time, more training. He’s in great form, he’s making great progress every day we are on the pitch. He had a great session again this (Sunday) morning, he’ll do more next week. The most important thing is that he is fit and healthy and we’ll get him ready. We won’t play him until he is ready”. This leaves Cian Lynch and William O’Donoghue as their most likely midfield pairing.

Shane O’Brien who hit 0-3 against Waterford when introduced for Flanagan is among those vying for a starting berth alongside Adam English and Donnacha Ó Dalaigh.

Question marks remain on the availability of four-time All Star Seán Finn in the Limerick defence. Mike Casey returned to their full-back line versus Waterford and is expected to remain there alongside Dan Morrissey and Barry Nash. Captain Declan Hannon will man the centre back berth with Diarmaid Byrnes and Kyle Hayes on either side.

Cathal O’Neill who has enjoyed a stellar championship so far will lead the Limerick attack with Gearoid Hegarty, Tom Morrissey, Aaron Gillane and David Reidy all hoping to cause Clare problems this weekend.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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