major test for dublin minors
Injury-hit Blues hoping to battle their way past Kildare in Croker
Dublin will look to advance to their second successive provincial final when they face Kildare in their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Football Championship semi-final in Croke Park this Sunday afternoon (12.0).
The holders have come through challenges presented by both Offaly and Wexford en route to the last-four clash against their near neighbours although both displays have lacked fluency at times with the Dubs riding their luck to a large degree when advancing past Wexford back in May.
The enforced and lengthy break caused by Leaving Certificate commitments will affect both teams at the weekend and Dublin's ability to hit the ground running will prove instructive to their chances of claiming a final berth and more importantly, a place in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
"In essence, this is like the start of a new season," conceded Dublin manager Paddy Christie.
"Because of the break that we have had regarding access to our full panel, it is almost like being back to 'Square One' so in that sense, it is hard to gauge where we are as a group.
"Of course, it will be the same for any other county and I'm sure that Kildare are no different but we have to look at this match as a totally new ball game and hope that the attitude and application is correct from the opening whistle," said Christie.
Christie's cause will not be helped by the absence through injury of both Kevin Callaghan and Stephen Smith with the former a major blow given his aerial ability and leadership qualities.
With Barra McGarry still suffering with a hamstring complaint that has curbed his influence over the summer, Dublin could well field without three key attackers although Christie is relieved that the choice to field two teams in the Leinster League has been vindicated, allowing him and his selectors to run the rule over a larger number of potential panellists.
"Having both Stephen (Smith) and Kevin (Callaghan) out is unfortunate as they would have been two players that were likely to feature in our starting team.
"However, the decision to enter two teams in the Leinster League looks to have been the right one in hindsight as we have been able to have a look at players that we mightn't had seen if we focussed exclusively on what we felt were our core 24 or so players.
"Thankfully, this has increased our options and the way that our injury situation has developed, we have more confidence in putting fellas into the team without having doubts about their ability to do the job.
"Of course, the league is a different animal to the championship but we're very happy with the depth of talent in the panel," added the Ballymun Kickhams clubman.
With the game switched from Parnell Park to Croke Park, the relative experience of both teams will be crucial with Dublin a reasonably youthful selection, given the small number of players that featured in Dublin's Leinster MFC winning team of 12 months ago.
How both sets of players cope with the intimidating and grand environs of headquarters is a factor that shouldn't be underestimated but Christie is relatively non-plussed as to how much the 'Croker Effect' will have on the contest between what are evenly-matched teams.
"I appreciate that Croke Park can be a daunting prospect for some players and sometimes you just don't know how a player will react to it until they cross the white line.
"It's just another variable to be taken into account and it definitely adds to the uncertainty around the match.
"It is something that you accept and hope that your team is inspired by and while it will definitely be an advantage for whoever wins on Sunday in terms of their preparations for the Leinster Final, I don't think having the match there is going to be the losing of the match for either team, especially given that the crowd on Sunday is unlikely to be too large when the game starts.
"With the beaten team having no second chance, it is a massive game for both teams where the winner takes it all.
"I would imagine both teams would be happy to crawl over the finish line by a point and take it from there," concluded Dublin manager Christie.
With the beaten team having no second chance, it is a massive game for both teams where the winner takes it all.