LIMERICK’S hurlers will be able to call upon a maximum of 21 players for Saturday’s Waterford Crystal Cup semi-final.
And, that’s if five players can prove their fitness ahead of the Kilmallock encounter with UCC, which has a 2.00 start.
TJ Ryan’s side are bidding to reach the final of the early season provincial competition for the first time since the Garryspillane man captained the county to success in 2006.
Victory over the Cork students will book a final spot against Clare or Cork, who meet in their semi-final this Saturday (1.00) in Mallow.
That final would take place on the weekend of January 31-February 1.
Limerick and UCC last met in 2010 when the Leesiders were 0-19 to 2-9 winners. Only Thomas O’Brien is likely to remain in the Limerick line-up from that outing.
The Patrickswell man is one of five players battling to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday - O’Brien, Niall Moran and David Breen were forced off injured last weekend in the 2-15 to 1-15 win over Waterford.
Breen is now facing a spell on the sidelines with injury.
The Na Piarsaigh man faces a race against time to be fit for the start of the National Hurling League after a grade two tear of his quad was confirmed following a scan this week.
Breen was forced off injured after just 10-minutes of Limerick’s opening game of the season last Saturday.
He now faces a recuperation period of four to five weeks.
Breen joins fellow attackers Kevin Downes and Seanie Tobin on the treatment table.
O’Brien and Moran should be available for the UCC game.
On Saturday, Limerick’s Adrian Breen will be facing his former college colleagues - the Na Piarsaigh forward won a Fitzgibbon Cup with UCC in 2013.
Against Waterford, Limerick only had 19 fully fit players and included no recognised goalkeeper among the substitutes as back-up to Nickie Quaid.
However, manager Ryan is hopes extra players could be available this weekend as Limerick bid to reach a final against either Clare or Cork.
“Kevin Downes and Seanie Tobin are the two that are probably going to miss the early part of the league - they will probably be back early March,” outlined manager TJ Ryan.
“We have a few knocks like Thomas Ryan, John Fitzgibbon and Stephen Walsh but they are trivial enough and won’t be out too long, touch wood - we had a good run last year and hopefully it will be the same this year with injuries.”
Also ruled out at present are the Kilmallock players (Gavin O’Mahony, Paudie O’Brien, Graeme Mulcahy and Barry Hennessy), who are preparing for their All Ireland club SHC semi-final, and a number of college tied players - Declan Hannon, David Reidy, Seanie O’Brien and Aaron Murphy.
On Saturday, Limerick play a UCC team that are managed by current Dublin boss, Ger Cunningham. UCC beat Kerry in their quarter-final.
They didn’t include any Limerick club players in their panel for that win over The Kingdom, although Adare’s PJ Hall has been involved in their Fitzgibbon Cup preparations.
In that team was former Castletroy College Harty Cup player Michael Breen (Ballina, Co Tipperary) at corner back. Others of note available to UCC are Cork trio Conor Lehane, Alan Cadagon and Rob O’Shea, Clare’s Shane O’Donnell and Waterford’s Jamie Barron.
“Last year we were knocked out by Clare but this year we now have another game and we would have anted another game anyway,” said the Limerick manager of the Waterford Crystal Cup competition, which provides preparation for the NHL.
The hurlers, once again captained by Donal O’Grady, will play three of their five league encounters at home - in the Gaelic Grounds against Waterford and Offaly and in Kilmallock against Laois.
They will face trips away to Antrim and Wexford. The Wexford fixture will be a double-header on March 8 with a Limerick-Wexford NFL game.
If Limerick suffer defeat to UCC they would most likely need to organise a challenge game to fill the brief void before the opening league game.