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Dubs can give DCU lesson

BESIDES being an almost annual event each January, this fixture usually represents a sort of showcase for Dublin football, both teams perennially heavy stocked with the brightest and best in the capital.

Not so much this year, though.

The understandable R&R granted to so many prominent All-Ireland winners, mixed with residual injuries from 2013 aligned to quite a few Dublin players graduating from the northside university, means that tomorrow mightn't represent the match's usual billing, the closest thing January can call a heavyweight bout.

That said, both Jim Gavin and Niall Moyna will fancy the extra game, and perhaps the two matches a win in Parnell Park would grant ahead of their respective Allianz League and Sigerson preparations, so there should at least be plenty of bluster to the afternoon.

Gavin intimated on Wednesday after a second consecutive comeback win – against Louth in atrocious conditions at Parnell Park – that those who played both Group D matches already may be rested tomorrow.

That would therefore rule out Darragh Nelson, Seán George and Mick Fitzsimons (Dublin's starting full-back line on both days), Kevin Nolan (who was replaced injured on Wednesday at half-time), Shane Carthy, Declan O'Mahony and Conor Walsh, Jason Whelan and Paul Hudson. Against that, he also emphasised the need to be fair and give every player a chance to book a spot on his league squad ... and many of the aforementioned would appear to be in the 'possibles' rather than 'probables' bibs, so it's unlikely he will load his team with regulars merely to qualify for the semi-finals of the only competition his team didn't win last year.

MANFULLY

On form though, George looks a shoo-in to make the step up, having dealt manfully with Brian White on Wednesday in the muck and rain in Donnycarney while Paul Hudson eventually found his range and his three points on the spin helped sustain and increase Dublin's newfound second-half momentum.

And Daniel Watson, surely, will get another crack after his highly productive cameo on Wednesday – when scoring 2-1 from play to effectively decide the contest.

Ordinarily so heavily stacked with Dublin players of the inter-county variety, DCU manager Moyna doesn't have the likes of Paul Flynn, Jonny Cooper, James McCarthy or Dean Rock to call on like he did last year.

Michael Murphy's graduation from the college, meanwhile, leaves similarly big boots to fill in a full-forward line which, to date, has been completely removed from that side that coughed up their Sigerson Cup title to eventual winners DIT at the semi-finals stage last spring.

Naturally, where some finish up their third level stint, others are just beginning and two forwards in particular have made notable contributions in each of their two victories thus far.

Against the Wee County, Wicklow full-forward Conor McGraynor scored 1-6 (0-4) and he followed it up with another impressive 1-3 (0-1f) on Wednesday evening in Mullingar.

Of far greater interest to Gavin, however, will be the form of Dublin under-21 and Na Fianna man, Conor McHugh (an All-Ireland MFC winner in 2012) who kicked 0-4 (2f) and 0-6 (4f) in those same matches and who, in all likelihood, will join the long, snaking queue of potential inside forwards shuffling for position upon the League's commencement.

STRENGTH

This is the first year in five that DCU don't enter the Sigerson as favourites (UUJ carry that distinction) suggesting perhaps a momentary dip in their perennial strength. And while there might not be a lot of 'stars' in the Dublin team just yet, there will at least exist a bloodlust amongst those wearing the jerseys to ensure they do so again post-January and into spring – Gavin's Dubs to shade a tight contest.

VERDICT: Dublin


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