Barrowsider Mullins relishing early test against the Blues
A VISIT from the reigning All-Ireland champions on the first weekend of January would not be to every player's fancy. A long winter break coupled with the excesses of the festive season is not the ideal preparation when attempting to beat the best team in the land.
But for Carlow forward Cormac Mullins, it is a test that he will relish when the Dubs come to Dr Cullen Park for Sunday's Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup clash (2.0).
"When the fixture was announced we were delighted to see it was Dublin," said Mullins. "The fact that it is at home means it will generate a good crowd and there will be a good atmosphere around the place.
"The last few years we have had some great games against them in the O'Byrne Cup. But they are the All-Ireland champions; by definition they are a step above everyone else. It is probably a tough ask in the first competitive game of the year but it is a great way to test ourselves."
As has been the case for the last number of years at this stage of the season, much attention has been given to the training ban imposed on inter-county teams for the winter months.
Like many of his peers, Mullins is not a fan. "I think the bigger teams wouldn't suffer as much. But for the teams who are knocked out early in the championship, it's a long time to be away from each other and to expect them not to be playing any football together," mused the 23-year-old NUI Maynooth student.
Last year, Carlow raised a few eyebrows when they dumped Louth, the 2010 Leinster finalists, out of the provincial championship.
A semi-final defeat to Wexford followed before eventual elimination by Antrim after a titanic struggle in Belfast. It was the Barrowsiders most productive season for many years.
"We were delighted the way last year went and even though the final result against Wexford was comprehensive, we believe we could have got more from that game."
Mullins is part of a group of players involved with the county minor teams run to the latter stages of the All-Ireland championship in 2007, as well as the u21s narrow defeat to eventual All-Ireland winners Dublin in 2010.
Although he was forced to watch the latter game due to a cruciate ligament injury, he is confident that their relative success at those levels can be transformed to the senior stage.
"There is a core group who have had success at underage and experienced long runs in the championship. I think if we can bring that mentality up to senior lwe can make a breakthrough sooner rather than later." And what better way to start than a win over Pat Gilroy's men on Sunday.