Dublin selection headache at last for Gilroy
For perhaps the first time all season, Pat Gilroy has a welcome selection headache as he contemplates his ideal line-up to try and ambush Kilkenny next Sunday in Parnell Park (2.0).
The Dublin hurling boss had to plan without any Cuala players for their topsy-turvy Allianz League campaign ... but Cian O'Callaghan, Seán Moran, Jake Malone and David Treacy have all rejoined the panel in the wake of their back-to-back All-Ireland club exploits.
Moreover, all four are likely to be in contention for starting berths in Parnell Park, with O'Callaghan and Moran especially viewed as near-certainties for defensive recalls.
Gilroy can also call on a fit-again Liam Rushe who, based on the admittedly sporadic spring evidence, is likely to be considered as a forward this summer.
That's the good news for Dublin as they prepare for their crucial first step in the new Leinster SHC round-robin format.
More ominously, they may have to face 2014 Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan, who has come through a series of Kilkenny training sessions unscathed following his recent return from a recurring back issue. The talk on Noreside is that Hogan could even come straight back into the team, despite his total lack of competitive action this year. Decorated duo Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly, both returned from overseas Army duty, are also back in training and pushing for game-time.
Murphy has long been Kilkenny's defensive bedrock but even the four-time All Star faces a major challenge breaking into a full-back line that has performed so well in his absence.
Whatever personnel are utilised by Brian Cody, his opposite number will appreciate the extent of the challenge in the wake of Kilkenny's unexpected run to another NHL Division 1 title.
The clear indicators, based on league selections, is that Gilroy will seek to blend youth with plenty of battle-hardened experience following the return of several mainstays who weren't involved in the latter stages of Ger Cunningham's reign.
Alan Nolan has been the man in possession of the number one jersey, ahead of former All Star Gary Maguire. Danny Sutcliffe (back from a two-year sabbatical) and Conal Keaney (out of retirement) look nailed-on for places in attack.
The versatile Rushe is also likely to join them there, even though centre-back has been his more regular haunt for several seasons.
Rushe featured as a forward in his three league cameos off the bench, against Antrim, Limerick and Galway.
An oblique muscle injury, affecting his rib cage, put paid to any involvement against Laois or Tipperary but he's now restored to full fitness and set to be a key man for Gilroy.
Of the younger brigade, apart from the already-established Donal Burke, who is believed to be an injury concern, Paddy Smyth looks poised for a first championship start after establishing his corner-back credentials during the league.
Fergal Whitely will also be pushing for a spot up front in Gilroy's attack.