Kilkenny superstar Henry Shefflin has admitted it is unlikely he will return to action until after the Leinster Hurling Championship.
Shefflin has been sidelined in recent weeks by a stress fracture of the foot, and the slow healing process has left the Ballyhale man frustrated.
“The first round of the Championship is still a step too far”, Shefflin admitted.
“I was in to see my surgeon yesterday and unfortunately the stress fracture hasn’t healed. It is healing, it’s just going to take time.
“I am out of the protective boot and I will be walking around in shoes and runners for a few weeks before going back to see him. We will see what the story is then.
“We are probably looking beyond the Leinster Championship. I don’t honestly know when I’ll be back, to be truthful.
"With the stress fractures if you go back too soon it will reoccur. I just have to be very careful, which is the frustrating part. It looks fine, and it feels fine, but if you put stress through it you could have a problem."
"We are probably looking beyond the Leinster Championship. I don’t honestly know when I’ll be back"
Shefflin’s absence from the Kilkenny team sheet for this weekend’s Leinster Championship meeting with Offaly brings to an end a remarkable run of starting in each of Kilkenny’s last 62 Championship matches, a run stretching back to his debut against Laois on 20 June 1999.
“I’ve been very lucky to have a good run of consecutive games under my belt, and to have gone through my career without missing a Championship match, but the road cannot be straight the whole time.
"There has to be bends in it and this is one of my bends. I just have to focus on myself right now.”
The 11-time All Star also believes that his difficulty is another’s opportunity, and that this is the source of the strength of Kilkenny hurling teams down the years.
“The basis of Kilkenny’s success over the years is that the jersey is given to someone and it is up to (them) to hold onto it.
"Some of the lads will get opportunities at the weekend, some of them Championship newcomers. We all have to start somewhere and that is the basis of Kilkenny’s strength.”
And Shefflin believes that they will get a picture against Offaly of what lies in store from the defending All-Ireland Champions for the summer.
“It’s the start of the Championship this weekend. I think the lads know that they have a tough match ahead of them in Tullamore.
"Every team feels they are going well before the Championship, but you have to go out between the white lines and do it.
“We will know on Sunday when Offaly put it up to us, which I’ve no doubt they will, what way the lads react will tell us how we are set up for the Championship.”
Live television coverage of Offaly v Kilkenny from 13:30 on Sunday 9 June on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only). Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Limerick v Tipperary from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).