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Tipp no minor test for dubs

Dublin's preparations for the defence of their provincial and All-Ireland titles will begin in earnest when they face Tipperary in their Leinster Minor Football League encounter at this Saturday in Chanel (Parnell's club, 2.0).

The Dubs also claimed this warm-up competition last year when defeating Meath en route to greater glories later in the year, and manager Cyril Kevlihan is well aware of its importance, not just in terms of results but in determining the final make-up of his panel for sterner challenges ahead.

"It has been quite a frustrating start to the year because both the county 2012 minor league and championships have not concluded yet and some of the players have therefore been focused on club commitments.

"That delay is a direct consequence of the great year that Dublin had in both codes last year, but it has definitely slowed us down to a degree in terms of assessing where we are in relation to the coming league and championship," said Kevlihan.

If Dublin are to mirror that league success from last year, they'll have little time for experimentation at the weekend against a talented Tipperary outfit who have developed a very strong reputation for minor football in recent times.

Of course, their All-Ireland success back in 2011 was at the expense of Dublin and their foundations appear similarly solid, despite a surprise exit at the quarter-final stages to Mayo in last year's championship.

"The league should be very useful in terms of our preparations, but results will be largely secondary as we need to ascertain the relative strengths and weaknesses of the panel.

"Tipperary will come with a very high standing at underage and although they were caught on the hop a bit in the championship last year, they have an excellent pedigree. But it's a game that we're very much looking forward to."

In terms of personnel this year, Kevlihan will be selecting from an inexperienced panel, with only goalkeeper Lorcan Molloy from St Anne's a regular starter from Dublin's glorious summer of 2012.

A sprinkling of fringe players from Dessie Farrell's squad, including Michael Deegan, will also be in the mix with Kevlihan optimistic their experiences will be to the benefit of the whole panel.

"We have a number of lads from last year that are available again this year, and we are hopeful that the positive experiences they enjoyed in winning an All-Ireland can help with the other members of the panel.

"It is very good to have them on board and it's very important that they blend with the other lads.

"That is one of the plusses of having featured on a successful team, but we are well aware that we're pretty much starting afresh again and it is a whole new year in many respects," said the Thomas Davis clubman.

Despite Dublin's success last year, Kevlihan, who managed Dublin to a Leinster title back in 2009 as well as 10 years previously, doesn't feel any added pressure.

A lack of continuity, relative to senior and even U21 inter-county football, ensures a hefty turnaround in terms of playing personnel, and the exploits of the 2012 panel are largely an irrelevance when attempting to gauge the qualities at his disposal.

"Certainly, I don't think there is any added pressure just because Dublin are the current holders," added Kevlihan.

"Last year's panel was littered with the likes of Shane Carthy, Eric Lowndes, Cormac Costello and Davy Byrne, who are all exceptional footballers and have shown their worth by already featuring for the seniors in the O'Byrne Cup.

"That talent varies from year to year and generally speaking it is a whole new ball game this year.

"As a result, there are few trends to be found at minor level and the significance of what happened in previous years wouldn't be hugely important," said Kevlihan.

After the clash with Tipperary, Dublin face Westmeath away on February 9, and conclude their round-robin group with a home tie against Longford four days later.