DUBLIN minor footballers take their first tentative steps towards defending their provincial title when they face Carlow in the Leinster MFC first round at Dr Cullen Park later this evening (7.0).
Last year's All-Ireland finalists enjoyed a fruitful spring, claiming the Leinster Minor Football League with an accomplished performance over Meath late last month, but tonight's encounter should give a stronger indication of the relative merits of Dessie Farrell's class of 2012.
Repeating last summer's heroics will be easier said than done with Farrell and fellow mentors Philip McElwee and Alan McNally working from almost a completely new panel to the one that narrowly succumbed to Tipperary last September.
Wing-back Eric Lowndes, a regular on last year's team, will have a crucial defensive role to play for what Dublin will hope is the start to another long summer.
Cormac Costello, another of last year's crew, has been named among the subs for tonight's clash as he has recently struggled with injury.
The talented Whitehall Colmcille lad offers a huge threat in attack off the bench while his fellow dual player Conor McHugh is another forward whose form will be pivotal to Dublin's chances.
Two panellists from last year, Niall Scully and David Campbell, feature in the full-foward line while the attack is led by the in-form Shane Cunningham (Kilmacud Crokes).
Their opponents suffered three consecutive losses in the Leinster MFL to Wexford, Louth and Meath, but there were positive signs in their 1-18 to 1-13 defeat to the Royal County that Seán Dempsey's panel is developing on the right lines.
Home advantage is another factor in Carlow's favour but Dublin's midfield pairing of Stephen Cunningham and Shane Carthy will be bolstered in that sector by wing-forward Gavin Burke and will hope to neutralise any Carlow momentum at an early stage.
A Dublin win should not be taken for granted given the intricacies of minor championship football but despite the relative rawness of their panel, the visitors should prevail.
TODAY: LEINSTER MFC (extra-time if needed)
Haggardstown: Louth v Westmeath, 3.0, R Malone (Dublin).
Pearse Park: Longford v Meath, 3.0, F Smyth (Offaly).
Aughrim: Wicklow v Laois, 7.0, K Kelly (Carlow).
Newbridge: Kildare v Wexford, 2.0, S Johnson (Louth).