Frank Roche

New blood has quickly injected greater competition into Gilroy's Dublin squad

DUBLIN are set to launch their All-Ireland title defence with a team showing a number of changes from the side that started against Kerry last September.

Pat Gilroy will unveil his line-up to face Louth on Friday morning but, speaking ahead of Sunday's Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park, he strongly hinted that change is on the cards.

"There are a lot of guys who have pushed themselves into a position where we would be genuinely considering starting them, and they mightn't have started a game last year," the Dublin boss pointed out.

"So it's going to be difficult to pick it, but I would expect there to be a considerable number of new faces that didn't feature last year."

It remains to be seen who breaks into Gilroy's first 15, although the four subs who all came off the bench in last year's All-Ireland final - Philly McMahon, Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O'Gara and Eamon Fennell - are likely to feature in the manager's thoughts. Gilroy has virtually a full hand to pick from, with Paul Brogan the only injury concern.

It seems unlikely that any of the All-Ireland U21 winning trio recently promoted to the senior squad - Kevin O'Brien, Jack McCaffrey and Emmet Ó Conghaile - will be parachuted in from the start this Sunday. A fourth U21, Ciarán Kilkenny, will hook up with the seniors on completion of his Leaving Cert in mid-June.

However, Gilroy confirmed that he has been hugely impressed by his newcomers.

"Their attitude has been that they are not there to make up numbers. They are only in a couple of weeks, but when the ball's there to be won they're going for it 100 percent," he revealed.

"I would be very happy with the three of them since they came in. They have made our life even more difficult in terms of picking a team for this Sunday."

On the flip side, Gilroy related how difficult it was to tell Declan Lally, Seán Murray and Dean Rock that they were no longer part of the set-up.

"Nobody wasn't applying themselves. We made a decision based on capability at a particular point in time," he outlined.

"Some of those lads I'd expect to come back into the Dublin fold in future, once they improve in certain areas.

"It is probably the hardest thing you have got to do in management, leaving a fella off the panel, particularly with the attitude of our panel - guys are really applying themselves. There are no disciplinary matters being dealt with, that's just the way it is. It is important to freshen it up too."

RAHENY strengthened their position at the top of the Dublin AFL Division 2 league with an impressive 2-12 to 0-9 victory over a previously unbeaten Ballinteer St John's at St Anne's Park.

Ciarán Whelan's men made it five wins from five starts with both their goals coming in the second half from Davy O'Brien and influential half-time sub Gavin Ivory.