Dubs to puzzle but not muzzle Cody's Cats ...
Parnell factor gives hosts a chance in early acid test for Gilroy project
The best time to face Kilkenny? Round one of Leinster's new round-robin group. And the best venue? Easy ... Parnell Park.
That has been the message emanating from Pat Gilroy's camp in recent weeks. Now we're about to find out whether timing and location will work the oracle.
The opening salvoes of this year's all-new senior hurling championship were always sure to fascinate. Dublin/Kilkenny was intriguing for another reason: the pre-league presumption was of two teams poised for a period of radical (and perhaps painful) team overhaul.
Fast-forward four months ... Kilkenny have defied the doubters by capturing the Allianz League title with a flourish. It was a case of new faces operating a more refined possession-based game-plan but with, at its core, old values so loved by Brian Cody: work, work and more work.
That's a quality equally adored by Gilroy, but Dublin have evolved in a less conventional way, rookies mingling with old prodigals. With the Cuala crew back, we are all still guessing how they will all combine against a team playing with that trademark Cody intensity.
It's a puzzle, and one that Kilkenny might initially struggle to solve in Parnell Park, with its claustrophobic atmosphere and perception of confined parameters.
Both teams are in transition but whereas Kilkenny's brilliant league suggests they are ahead of schedule, with Dublin we are still guessing. Their league was a distinctly mixed bag, veering from the ridiculously bad (Offaly and Limerick) to the sublime (first ten minutes against Tipperary) and various points between.
But should we pre-judge Dublin on Gilroy's first league? Definitely not.
His maiden summer team confirms the extent of the upheaval. Whereas Ger Cunningham brought in too many callow youths all at once, Gilroy has recalled four 'blasts from the past': goalkeeper Alan Nolan, Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe and Paul Ryan in attack.
Nolan, Keaney and Sutcliffe were NHL regulars. Ryan's role was more fitful, but he capitalises on the injury-enforced absence of Donal Burke and David Treacy to reclaim freetaking duties.
Recent Ballyboden form augurs well: his 0-12 against Craobh Chiaráin and 2-4 against St Brigid's included 1-7 from play.
Another big change to an old favourite involves Liam Rushe: no longer centre-back inspiration but restored to his original 2009 haunt, full-forward.
On the flip side, the Dublin team includes two SHC debutants - Paddy Smyth and Bill O'Carroll - and a further three making their first summer starts, Rian McBride, Jake Malone and Fergal Whitely.
Their task is considerable. TJ Reid - more imposing of physique, as metronomic as ever - is Kilkenny orchestrator and executioner all in one.
You can't silence Reid but Dublin must mitigate the damage to have a chance: Eoghan O'Donnell, though listed at midfield, could well be his appointed shadow with Chris Crummey a likely fit for Walter Walsh.
Our suspicion? Dublin will be feisty and competitive but won't quite muzzle the Cats.
DUBLIN: A Nolan; P Smyth, C O'Callaghan, B O'Carroll; S Barrett, S Moran, C Crummey; R McBride, E O'Donnell; J Malone, C Keaney, D Sutcliffe; F Whitely, L Rushe, P Ryan.
BOYLESPORTS ODDS: Dublin 11/2 Draw 14/1 Kilkenny 1/7
- Leinster SHC Rd 1 Dublin v Kilkenny (Parnell Pk, Tom 2.0, live RTE 2)