Daly's new faces have beating of O'Moore men
ANTHONY Daly's first competitive match in charge of Dublin was a Walsh Cup tie against Laois in Abbeyleix in front of probably less than half the number of people who attended Mass in the town earlier that morning.
At that stage, the buzz around Daly's appointment was still tempered by the fact that for all the promises of budding young talent, Dublin were still only the sort of team that would put in a half decent performance against one of hurling's aristocracy every so often. And that was only in the league.
Since then, he has taken them to new heights. A Division 1 league title, an All-Ireland semi-final appearance in 2011 and here he finds himself back in deepest, darkest Laois to kick off 2012 with plenty of questions still to be asked about his team.
Mostly, those enquiries revolve around fitness and whether the band of men currently prostrate with injuries will be fit to lend their respective shoulders to the charge later in the season.
For now, another Walsh Cup run would do just nicely, particularly now that the scope for experimentation has been narrowed due to the upcoming league's abbreviated structure.
Last year, Daly found players like Ronan Walsh and Conor Clinton (who was subsequently injured) during the Walsh Cup and this year, another layer of hopefuls cast their first lines into the inter-county waters.
Eamon Dillon -- or 'Trollier' as he is affectionately known -- has been bubbling under the surface of this team for some time and his three-goal salvo in a recent challenge against Gort probably rubber-stamped his senior competitive debut tomorrow.
Ditto, Shane Stapleton, who makes his own competitive bow after recuperating from his own cruciate ligament injury (or 'Dublin hurlers disease' as it is set to be renamed) in midfield alongside Danny Sutcliffe who, despite coming on in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final defeat of Limerick, is making his first senior start here.
Laois are in the early throes of a new regime themselves, yet Teddy McCarthy's arrival hasn't injected much interest in the hurlers just yet.
Last week, Willie Dunphy and Willie Hyland were instrumental in their extra-time victory over DIT and just as Dublin regarded Galway and Kilkenny as scalps in last year's competition, so too will Laois view Daly's men as opposition worth beating.
ODDS: Laois 11/4, Draw 12/1, Dublin 1/4 VERDICT: Dublin