Cronin 'a very big doubt' for Munster showdown

It looks increasingly unlikely that Patrick Cronin will be fit to lead Cork into battle against Clare in Sunday week's Munster SHC semi-final.

The Cork captain has been described as 'a very big doubt' by selector Kieran Kingston, as the Rebels prepare to take on the buoyant Banner men.

Cronin had reportedly been suffering from pneumonia in the build-up to Bishopstown's Cork Senior Hurling Championship first round meeting with Courcey Rovers ten days ago.

During the game the 26-year-old forward was substituted on medical advice after coughing up some blood. He was duly hospitalised with 'a very severe chest infection' and only released yesterday.

"If he is ruled out it would be a massive blow for us alongside the fact that we have already lost Paudie O'Sullivan for the entire season," Kingston told the Evening Echo.

"We are still keeping our fingers crossed for Patrick, but he has to be a very big doubt now."

The Cork management are hoping Cronin will return to training next week when his fitness will be assessed ahead of the crunch clash with Clare at the Gaelic Grounds.

Among the players pressing to replace Cronin in the Cork attack is Seamus Harnedy, the 22-year-old who only made his senior bow for Cork in March's league game against Waterford.

Harnedy scored 2-4 from full-forward as he helped UCC beat Imokilly to progress in the Cork Championship last Saturday, while Cathal Naughton, Jamie Coughlan and Stephen Moylan are also hoping to convince manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy that they deserve a starting spot.

If Cronin fails to recover in time, the Rebels will be entering the 2012 Championship without six players from the panel on duty for their most recent Championship match - last August's All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Galway at Croke Park.

The aforementioned O'Sullivan is out for the season with a broken fibula and tibia, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín has since retired, Eoin Cadogan is now concentrating on football, Niall McCarthy is no longer part of the squad and young midfielder Darren Sweetnam has made a full-time switch to rugby as a member of the Munster Academy and the current Ireland Under-20 squad.

Barry-Murphy has given call-ups to Eoin Keane from St. Finbarr's and Midleton clubman Patrick O'Mahony as defenders Killian Murphy and Colm Spillane are currently nursing injuries. Spillane sustained an ankle ligament injury during a recent challenge match against Galway.

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