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Dubs due a fast start

FIRST real night back for Dublin and already, the talking points are bountiful. The Walsh Cup has been claimed and that particular process gave an insight into a fresh mentality and a couple of particularly interesting personnel issues.

And certainly, there are a couple of noteworthy selections on the Dublin team to take on Offaly tonight, particularly down its spine, if indeed they line out as named.

Firstly, two debutants, Kevin Byrne and Mark Schutte, should play at midfield and corner-forward. Both played in the Walsh Cup and at first glance, it appears their form has been rewarded.

Similarly, Liam Rushe at centre-back is an interesting call. All noises from the Dublin camp in the off-season suggested Rushe would be deployed in midfield this season so don't be surprised if himself and Joey Boland switch at some point tonight/during the spring. But what is clear is that Daly sees the 2011 Young Hurler of the Year in a different role to that of last year.

Johnny McCaffrey, meanwhile, heads in the opposite position after a sterling January at centre-forward and, alongside Danny Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney, makes up potentially the strongest line of the Dublin team.

And with Tomás Brady now encamped with the footballers (and most likely, had he stayed, played in the half-back line) Paul Schutte gets the chance to make the full-back spot his own.

Daly is a major admirer of the Cuala defender for whom Dublin seniordom has been pockmarked with injury but he will get at least the first few games of the league to prove his pedigree for number three.

So Dublin should take the first therapeutic step at rebuilding their reputation tonight and, in truth, should win their way through this division. But while winning is, obviously, a great habit to pick up ... so too is scoring goals, a major malfunction in recent years.

As Daithí Regan told the Herald this week: "Dublin will not win a provincial title or an All-Ireland title – and haven't a notion of winning one – unless they hit two or three goals on the really big day when there is a major trophy at stake."

So the pressure is on Schutte, Paul Ryan and Conor McCormack to come up with the goods and if they don't, David Treacy and 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan wait pensively in the wings.

It is, in every regard though, set up for a Dublin win, which as Daly pointed out at the start of the week, is precisely the time Offaly come and beat you ... although the local feeling in the Faithful County isn't particularly optimistic.

Ollie Baker is in year two but hasn't been deemed to have made progress thus far. He is without the Kilcormac-Killoughey brigade and a cluster of injured men but, up until the point of their championship exit last year, looked no nearer to establishing an effective system of play with the Faithful.

And local opinion is divided, as Regan said himself this week.

"This isn't the style Offaly should be playing," he insisted. "Okay, I understand that teams nowadays need to be strong and physical and strong in the tackle and all of that.

"But where Offaly are coming from, they're not as physically strong as the likes of Dublin and Galway, they're not used to playing that sort of hurling and they're already miles behind the rest of them because they've been doing it for much, much longer.

"So why not try something else?"

What Offaly have going for them, however, is tradition and an inherent belief that regardless of recent results, they are better hurlers than Dublin.

Whether that rings true anymore is highly questionable and Dublin have, by any standard of measurement, gone past Offaly in recent times.

And they should reiterate that fact in Parnell Park tonight.

ODDS: Dublin 1/5, Draw 12/1, Offaly 4/1

VERDICT: Dublin


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