Auditions start here
Dublin's O'Byrne Cup bow should see new faces stake claims
Christmas phrase "you won't feel it coming" never rang truer than it did in Dublin last year.
One minute, the Boys in Blue were the toast of the town. Invited to every banquet imaginable and spending their days recovering from a mixture of deserved excess and incessant but firm slaps on the back.
Next thing you know, it's 5.30am and you're being flogged up and down the sand dunes of Clontarf Strand wondering whether that shiny piece of silver and all the plaudits were merely festive hallucinations.
As soon as Pat Gilroy confirmed his intentions to stay on for a crack at retaining Sam Maguire, the players knew. Or they should have known, at least.
The man with all the 'real world' commitments was never going to be prepared to give his precious time to a glorified lap of honour so the earlier starts and the higher standard the heroes of 2011 are being exposed to were a natural progression.
Tomorrow, they make their competitive comeback and once the guard of honour has been observed, the only mentions of September 18, 2011 are likely to come from outside the camp.
Naturally, the new recruits will attract the most attention. It's entirely implausible that Dublin will negotiate the year without injury, suspension or loss of form besetting at least some of last year's starting 15 and just as the green shoots of 2010 forced the established order to up their game (or in many cases, out of the team or squad altogether), Gilroy will look to the next wave of Dublin talent to lift the boats of the status quo.
Already, last year's minor centre-back, John Small, has made his bow in last Sunday's annual Evening Herald/ Dublin Bus Dubs Stars match, as did Rory Corcoran of Castleknock.
Small is composed on the back foot and mature in possession, fitting the James McCarthy/Kevin Nolan mould of half-back Gilroy obviously prefers.
His Ballymun Kickhams club-mates, Davy Byrne and Karl Connolly, have also been drafted in and the former, in particular, certainly deserves a run. He starred for Ballymun as they came achingly close to qualifying for last year's county final, defying his lack of height to soar spectacularly into the Donnycarney sky and outfielded such well-built luminaries as Barry Cahill and John O'Loughlin.
Two men with serious points to prove, though, are St Brigid's duo, Paddy Andrews and Shane Supple.
For Andrews, last September must have been the epitome of bittersweet.
Dropped from the panel in the wake of Dublin's league final collapse to Cork, Andrews was in awesome form during Brigid's run to the Leinster final and in their loss to Garrycastle.
Uncannily good at winning ball with a physique already built for top level warfare, a wide range of defensive attributes and a talent for converting chances, Andrews should be tailor-made for a spot in Gilroy's team and he will no doubt be hell-bent to prove just why.
Supple has been excelling in the truest sense of the word for Brigid's for two years now to the extent that his claims for making the panel were undeniable. His shot-stopping abilities are at least on a par with Stephen Cluxton's and he has improved his distribution and kickouts since returning home to Dublin from Ipswich.
Gilroy has carried two goalkeepers in each of his three years in charge and has preferred Michael Savage as back-up to Cluxton up until now but Supple's form should see him push the St Vincent's netminder hard.
DUBLIN (From): M Savage, S Supple, C O'Sullivan, M Fitzsimons, P Brogan, D Daly, K Connolly, G Brennan, J Small, D Lally, S Murray, D Byrne, MD MacAuley, E Fennell, R McConnell, R Corcoran, B Cullen, T Quinn, A Brogan, B Kelly, M McCarthy, P Andrews, D Connolly, B Cahill.
ODDS: Carlow 10/3, Draw 10/1, Dublin 1/4