ANTHONY DALY has found himself caught between a rock and a hard place as he contemplates a potential Dublin revamp for this Sunday's Allianz Hurling League showdown with relegation rivals Waterford.
In an ideal world, Daly would have rested several of his physically flagging troops to ensure they were in optimum condition for their relegation play-off on April 15.
But that was on the premise Dublin would be renewing battle with Waterford in this winner-takes-all shootout. Now, all of a sudden, it could be Galway.
So instead of this Sunday's trip to Dungarvan being a so-called dead rubber for both sides, Waterford have it all to play for ... and the Dublin manager may have to reconsider just how much tinkering he does to a team that has just played three gruelling matches on consecutive weekends. "That is what we have to decide between this and Friday," Daly told the Evening Herald.
"Not taking away from anyone else's battles, but we have been involved in three particularly intense league games in three weeks (against Cork, Kilkenny and then Tipperary last Saturday). A lot of bodies are tired and in need of a break," he expanded.
"We have to play a relegation 'final' anyway, against Galway or Waterford. Either way, it's going to be very tough -- at a neutral venue -- but we look forward to it.
"As regards this weekend, there are a few guys who could do with a break. Still, we are working off a limited amount with so many injuries, and it would make it tight.
"There are a few guys who could come in. There is no point in having them on a panel unless they are capable of doing a job," Daly stressed.
A cursory glance through Dublin's recent match programmes offers some clue as to who could come into the frame -- Oisín Gough, Daire Plunkett and Peadar Carton all started SHC matches at some stage last summer and were unused subs against Tipp. For the previous outings against Cork and Kilkenny, David Curtin was among the unused replacements.
Moreover, two subs who delivered vital scoring contributions last weekend -- David Treacy (1-2) and Niall McMorrow (0-2) -- surely bolstered their chances of a start in Dungarvan.
Countering that, Daly is faced with the delicate balancing act of resting first-team regulars while not "completely exposing guys" by fielding a second-string outfit.
It wouldn't have been such a difficult choice if Waterford's early-season traumas had continued in Pearse Stadium. Instead, their shock win over Galway has completely muddied the waters -- for if Waterford defeat Dublin this Sunday while at the same time Galway lose in Kilkenny, Anthony Cunningham's Tribesmen would be catapulted into a relegation play-off.
In that scenario, the Déise and Galway would finish on four points apiece but their head-to-head record -- rather than scoring difference -- would separate them. Hence the significance of Waterford's Salthill success.
Either way, Dublin are destined for the play-offs but they can now play a central role in deciding who they face on April 15.
The current NHL champions finally ended their long wait for a first league point courtesy of Liam Rushe's equalising goal with the last puck against Tipperary.
However, in the 11 minutes preceding Rushe's injury-time heroics, Tipp had outscored their Croke Park hosts by six points to one. Coming just six days after Dublin's energy-sapping (not to mention heartbreaking) defeat by Kilkenny, it begged the question whether fatigue was an issue in those dying minutes.
"I'd say it was a bit," Daly ventured. "No matter what you say, Tipp's game against Waterford -- having watched it on video -- wasn't that intense.
"Our match in Nowlan Park was very intense. Certainly I felt our lads ... even to look at them in the dressing-room after (last Saturday), a lot of them were 'flahed'.
"That is absolutely nothing to do with fitness, because our training has been top-class," he stressed. "It is a different type of league this year: it's all very quick and all together.
"I don't ever remember league games for four weeks, every week."