Wexford showdown looms as new men get another chance to impress
IT was put to Ger Cunningham after Dublin's first competitive win of 2017 over Carlow last Wednesday in Parnell Park that whatever team he fashions to play Tipperary in the first round of this year's League, they won't have played a match of any significance as a team beforehand.
"Unless we get to the semi-final or the final," he pointed out.
"The rules of competition are that the lads who have played with the colleges can come back in and play with us, if they get that far."
Which provides these early-season games a dollop more significance.
To qualify, Dublin must first beat UCD tonight in Parnell Park, a not particularly arduous task if you take their 35-point walloping by Wexford last Sunday on Davy Fitzgerald's opening afternoon in Gorey as a gauge.
Then, they must beat Wexford in Wexford next Thursday, a far trickier undertaking given the strength of the side Fitzgerald was able to field last weekend.
For context, Nicky English only had two of his starters available for that match, though he should have more tonight.
For a start, Oisín O'Rorke, James Madden and Cian MacGabhann have all returned from a training camp and may line out tonight against their own county.
Indeed, their team might be a closer relation to first choice than Dublin's.
As it is, Cunningham's already diluted side must do without one of the few senior men available in Liam Rushe, who was sent off on a straight red card last week against Carlow.
Of greater importance just now is that the new men who did well continue to do so.
Donal Burke strikes you as the sort of forward who will have a long and prolific career as a Dublin senior.
Whether this year is too soon for a player just out of the minor grade and lacking the physicality generally agreed upon as required is open to argument.
For his part, Cunningham wasn't inclined to rule anything out.
Crumlin's Alex Quinn came on and added a zip to the Dublin attack it leaked as the the Carlow match wore on.
Kilmacud Crokes Feargal Whitely also made a strong contribution after his half-time introduction and these are the sorts of bright sparks Dublin need right now.
A win would do nicely too.