When Cormac Donnelly travelled to Munich several weeks ago to receive treatment in a top European clinic for an ongoing pelvic problem he little thought that he would recover in time to assist Antrim in their Leinster Championship campaign.
But last night the towering 22-year-old full-back not only confirmed that he has fully recovered from injury but pledged to help take Antrim into the last four of the competition.
That may be construed as fanciful thinking in some quarters but Donnelly suggests that the Saffrons can catch a Wexford side that has been unimpressive this year on the hop.
“My initial progress after the operation was slow but I have been working very hard with our trainer and this has paid off by my selection to start tomorrow. Now I want to repay manager Dinny Cahill and indeed the whole backroom team for the faith they are showing in me,” declares the Ballycastle clubman.
Donnelly may not have had a lot of game time recently but Cahill is convinced that his giant presence at the heart of his defence will at worst give Wexford food for thought and at best ensure the shutters remain erected sufficiently long to allow the Saffrons to nose home.
“The match against Laois came too soon for me but over the past couple of weeks I have come on by leaps and bounds — and that’s literally speaking. Wexford are one of the stronger hurling counties despite their mediocre performance in the National League and we will need to be on top of our game to beat them,” insists Donnelly.
His view is shared by his colleagues including Eddie McCloskey who returns to the starting line-up following suspension.
“I was absolutely gutted to miss the win over Laois and I want to
make up for lost time tomorrow,” states McCloskey.
Darren Hamill is named at full-forward, Conor McCann retains his place at right-full-forward and Chris McGuinness is again included in the full-back line as manager Cahill gives youth its head.
But there is also experience within the side with the Herron brothers Michael and Ciaran along with Aaron Graffin shoring up the defence while Karol Stewart and Neil McManus underpin the attack.
In the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship two interesting quarter-finals are down for decision tomorrow with old rivals Down and Derry in action at Casement Park while Armagh will meet Monaghan at Pairc Esler, Newry. Both games are at 3.30.
Antrim: C O’Connell; C McGuinness, C Donnelly, K Molloy; A Graffin, M Herron, C Herron; P Shiels, B McFall; S McRory, K Stewart, N McManus; C McCann, D Hamill, E McCloskey.
Wexford: N Breen; P Roche, M O’Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Prendergast, C Kenny, M Jacob; W Doran, D Redmond; P J Nolan, H Kehoe, S Bannville; R Jacob, E Martin, J Berry.