Dean Rock ready to return for the Blues in Leeside
DEAN ROCK is expected to make a first League start for Dublin this Sunday as Jim Gavin's men commence their spring campaign with a trip to Páirc Uí Rinn to face Cork.
A mixture of injury and club involvement (2013) has limited the Ballymun Kickhams man to just two League appearances for Dublin, both from the bench in 2013.
Rock has, however, put himself firmly in the frame to start against Brian Cuthbert's team after starring in Dublin's recent O'Byrne Cup success, scoring 0-38 (26f, 2 '45') across the five games of their first success in the competition since 2008.
His Ballymun Kickhams clubmate, John Small, is another with strong prospects of a maiden competitive start after holding down the centre half-back berth in January, while Emmett Ó Conghaile attracted praise from Gavin for his performances in midfield.
Of the team that started last September's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal, eight have togged for Dublin already this year.
Of the rest, Stephen Cluxton is expected to start this weekend, with Seán Currie and Lorcan Molloy having undergone alternating auditions for backup goalkeeper in 2015.
James McCarthy, Cian O'Sullivan and Paul Flynn have all undergone operations since last autumn and thus are likely to miss the opening matches of spring.
And while Gavin has yet to reveal whether Alan Brogan has made himself available for the season, it is expected that the 2011 Footballer of the Year will rejoin the squad deeper into the football season.
Younger brother, Bernard, did not make a single appearance in the O'Byrne Cup, but is fit and ready for action.
Diarmuid Connolly, meanwhile, is club-tied.
After a strong start to the year - and in the absence of Gavin's 2014 Championship half-forward line - Tomás Brady will push strongly for a berth at wing-forward.
In addition, David Byrne (Naomh Olaf), Brian Fenton, Robbie McDaid, Davy Byrne (Ballymun Kickhams), Conor McHugh, Eric Lowndes and Ciarán Reddin are all available again to Gavin having played for their respective colleges in the O'Byrne Cup.
For Cork, Michael Cussen, 30, could make a first competitive appearance since the 2009 All-Ireland final, having resurrected his county career and forming a somewhat unlikely midfield partnership with erstwhile forward, Mark Collins in the McGrath Cup.
Daniel Goulding is still in Australia on an extended holiday while Michael Shields is currently recovering from groin surgery he had before Christmas.
Paddy Kelly has just returned to training after continuous injury problems although Paul Kerrigan should feature, having come off the bench against Waterford in the McGrath Cup just days after returning from New Zealand.
"But I would be confident that we do have a lot of good young players and that playing against the likes of Dublin will inspire them," explained Cuthbert, who maintains that Dublin remain "the team to beat" despite last year's failure to land a second successive All-Ireland.
"It's a difficult judgement call to make - who is the best team in Ireland," he told the Herald.
"The Championship decides that and at the moment, Kerry are getting ready for another season after winning again.
"But I think Dublin have the resources, have the players and I think they're a very fine side.
"Even in the last two or three years with the likes of Vincent's coming and Ballymun, club football in Dublin is very, very strong."