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Who Giller goes for overshadows Wexford lying in wait at Parnell

O'BYRNE CUP

DUBLIN v WEXFORD

(Parnell Park, Tomorrow, 2.0)

A year ago, Dublin didn't bother with this tournament. Warm weather training in La Manga got first preference and, while few of the Parnell Park faithful wept as what effectively amounted to a Dublin B team relinquished dreams of a third title in a row, you'd suspect no one in the capital would mind a couple of competitive games this time around.

Certainly not Pat Gilroy. His early season aims appear two-fold just now. Firstly, most of last year's squad are presently being trained and drilled to within an inch of their lives.



SAVAGE

Two sessions a day, early starts, savage stuff. Certainly not for the faint-hearted newbies on the squad or, indeed, even battle-hardened soldiers who enjoyed their Christmas too much.

Secondly -- and this is where a half-decent O'Byrne Cup run could be beneficial -- Gilroy has stated emphatically that there will be a clearout.

The most significant change in playing personal since 2002, as he has said himself. But it looks as though the giant cull won't happen until just before the league starts in February so those in the queue for the abattoir at least have a couple more weeks of shockingly cold 6.30am starts to enjoy.

For those selected for the rescheduled O'Byrne Cup opener tomorrow in Parnell Park, there's a chance to show their worth away from the killing, sorry, training fields.

Again, on Gilroy's word, Dublin are looking for attitude and workrate but we'll take those as prerequisites and examine a few of the newer arrivals who should play a part tomorrow.

Of the 24-man squad named during the week, only Stephen Cluxton, Ross McConnell, Bernard Brogan, Blaine Kelly and Alan Hubbard saw championship action last year.

The likes of Kevin Bonner, Paul Casey and Tiernan Diamond were all in the championship matchday squad, but given the expected scale of Gilroy's much anticipated chop, those who made no impression on the championship XV last year and who fail to impress before the league begins in four weeks' time had better watch their backs. There's plenty of youthful potential in there, too, and it's not just pedigree and genes that mark Ballymun Kickhams duo James McCarthy and Dean Rock out as bright raw material.

James (son of 70s legend Johnny McCarthy) and Rock (son of Barney) both fit Gilroy's mould. Athletic and physically strong, McCarthy is a ball-playing half-back with unsurprisingly little fear and a serious gallop to boot.

Rock can win his own ball and his accuracy from frees and play is improving all the time.

Another to keep an eye out for is Dean Kelly, he of Dublin Regional Tournament fame. In a programme of matches that, in truth, threw up few stand-out performers, the Trinity Gaels player -- who was man of the match in last year's Leinster U21 final victory over Laois -- caught the eye with a combined score of 2-7 over two matches.



OPTIONS

Seán Murray of St Brigid's is a serious prospect in the making too, but Dublin have so many options across the half-back line, it's not the ideal trade in which to be an apprentice right now.

Of more pressing concern for Gilroy is finding some midfielders now that Shane Ryan and Ciarán Whelan have departed the inter-county scene.

Eamon Fennell has been named in the squad, even though he is ineligible to play, but plenty of eyes will be on Michael McAuley to see if he can take some of the stunning form he showed for Ballyboden St Enda's in their Dublin championship campaign to the intercounty scene.

Against Kilmacud Crokes in the first replay of the semi-final, he was, quite literally, head and shoulders above everyone else.

He fielded an enormous amount of ball above the heads of bigger men and that, more than anything else, is what was missing from Dublin's midfield performance in the championship last year.

Whatever Wexford bring to Parnell Park tomorrow, the biggest challenge Dublin footballers are currently facing is against one another for a mere spot in the upcoming league squad.

And on that basis, we'll tentatively back Dublin -- in whatever form they take.

VERDICT: Dublin


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