Loss of Kelly 'frustrating'
Cunningham without seven for Wexford tie but veterans return
Peter Kelly will not make Dublin's Championship opener against Wexford and his participation this summer remains uncertain.
One of Ger Cunningam's co-captains last year, Kelly is the highest-profile name not available for Saturday as he continues an arduous recovery process from the knee injury suffered in club action last September.
Cian Boland, Ben Quinn, James Madden, Cian and Riain McBride are also out with various injuries while Colm Cronin will not be available on Saturday as he is currently sitting medicine exams in UCD, though the Cuala forward will return to the squad next week.
It was Kelly's injury, however, that Cunningham described as "frustrating" after the Lucan player's comeback date was further delayed and the Dublin manager added that the player remained "still a bit off" a return to training.
"Last year, we played him centre-back at different stages. He's a very versatile player. But I suppose, if it's frustrating for me, it's obviously very frustrating for Peter as well," Cunningham reasoned.
"He did his hamstring against Galway last year and missed a lot of the summer hurling last year. He went back with his club, got the knee problem and he's been out since.
"He's making a recovery. It's been slow. But hopefully, we'll see him before the season is out.
"You would have hoped it would come a bit sooner. But as I say, hopefully, before the season is out, we'll see him."
The good news for Cunningham is that Niall Corcoran, Paul Schutte and Ryan O'Dwyer have all returned to full training having missed all of Dublin's League campaign.
Each of these players are, according to the Cork native, being seriously considered for the Croke Park clash with Wexford, who failed to mount a serious campaign to gain promotion from Division 1B this spring.
"Anyone who has come back in," he explained, "the lads who are back, they're very experienced players. They would know what it takes to get up to the level to play Leinster Championship.
"They're certainly all being considered. They're showing a good hunger for it having missed a lot of the League. So you can counter-balance that.
"Ryan has been back in. He played in the club Championship. Niall Corcoran, the same.
"Paul Schutte is back but unfortunately, he missed the second (Dublin SHC) game with concussion that he had from the first game with Cuala.
"So it's great to have those lads back but he we still have a lengthy injury list, unfortunately."
Cunningham fielded a largely consistent team during this year's League, though he admits to having a major decision to make with regard to who wears the goalkeeper jersey on Saturday.
Conor Dooley started all but one of Dublin's spring campaign, though Gary Maguire was injured during that spell and it appears as though Cunningham is facing the same conundrum as last year when he preferred Alan Nolan to Maguire for their opener against Galway.
"It is a great way to be," Cunningham reckoned.
"(Gary's) been Dublin's goalkeeper for the last number of years and he wants the jersey as much as Conor does and their attitude in training has been really good."
"We wanted to give Conor an opportunity to see if he could play at this level.
"He has done well and Gary was injured during a bit of the league."
"They are both from the same club so it's unusual, in fairness to Gary he understood the situation in that we had to see if Conor could perform at that level and there is good competition between the two of them and a friendly rivalry as well."
Dooley would, were he selected, be a Championship debutant though there is likely to be at least one first time selection in Whitehall Colmcilles defender Eoghan O'Donnell, who started every one of Dublin's six League games.
"It is a step up," his manager acknowledged.
"But all you can do is go on the basis of what we see. What we see in training and club matches. Eoghan has come in. He played the six matches in the League and he has done really well.
"Now, there's a bit of competition for places in that two of our corner-backs; Niall and Paul Schutte have come back in. But there's a challenge for Eoghan to step up and make sure he keeps them at bay.
"But he's done really well so far. Hopefully he can bring that into the Championship."
From the team that drew with Galway in last year's Championship opener, Nolan and Simon Lambert have been dropped, Conal Keaney and Michael Carton have retired, Danny Sutcliffe has opted off the squad indefinitely while Cronin is unavailable.
"When you come into a new job you work off the previous year's panel," explained Cunningham of the massive change the team has undergone in the interim.
"And I have had a chance to look around at last year's Under 21 and club championship and there are other players that would fit into our style of game.
"Lads are getting to know what we are looking for as well," Cunningham added.