January presents opportunity for Dublin's new men
Cunningham without 23 of his squad for Walsh Cup
Given the scale of change within the Dublin senior hurling squad of late, these early season matches present genuine opportunity for a scattering of unheralded players.
Ger Cunningham's team open their Walsh Cup campaign tonight against UCD in Parnell Park (7.30) with several of those who played there in the annual Dublin Bus/Herald Dubs Stars challenge on New Year's Day again primed to feature.
Players like Alan Moore, Caolan Conway, Seán Ó Riain, Mark McCallion, Mark Cavanagh, Darragh Gray, Ciarán Dowling, Conor Burke and Matthew McCaffrey were not named in Cunningham's official panel last November but are currently training with the group in the absence of eight Cuala men.
The likes of Oisín O'Rorke, Cian MacGabhann, James Madden (UCD), Riain McBride, Eoghan O'Donnell (DCU) and Eamonn Dillon (DIT) are part of a cup-tied group of a dozen who will play for their respective colleges in this competition, though they are also training with Cunningham's extended panel.
Dotsy O'Callaghan (back injury), Cian Boland (knee) and Ryan O'Dwyer (honeymoon) are also currently unavailable.
Cunningham's planning for this year's League campaign had already been made more problematic by Cuala's decision to accede to a request from opponents, Slaughtneil, to move their All-Ireland club semi final from its original date on February 4th back to the 25th to facilitate the Derry club's dual ambitions.
A defeat for Cuala there would have, in theory, opened the door for a return to the Dublin fold for Oisín Gough, Jake Malone, Seán Moran, Cian O'Callaghan, Darragh O'Connell, Mark Schutte, Paul Schutte and David Treacy in time for their League opener against Tipperary in Croke Park six days later.
The refixture means Ger Cunningham will have little option but to hand out several League debuts and take on both Tipperary and Cork in early February with an inexperienced team.
Should Cuala win, that group will also miss Dublin's clash with Waterford on March 4th, their trip to Clare a week later and in all likelihood, severely limit their involvement in their final 1A clash against Kilkenny on the 26th of that month.
Dublin will however, feature a handful of more experienced players tonight, with Liam Rushe, Shane Barrett and Chris Cr ummey all available.
Gary Maguire and Na Fianna's Jonathan Treacy will again share goalkeeping responsibilities.
UCD's bulksome Dublin representation aside, Nicky English's team will also have the likes of Waterford All Star Tadhg de Búrca and highly-rated Kilkenny prospect, James Maher, for a Fitzgibbon Cup campaign they are fancied to contest strongly this year, though neither are likely to feature here.