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Fanning's fledglings canearn wings with raid on Faithful nest



Dublin's minor hurlers will face a serious test of their provincial credentials when they face Offaly in their Electric Ireland Leinster Minor Hurling Championship encounter at O'Connor Park, Tullamore this afternoon (2.00).

The Leinster titles from the past two campaigns will count for little given the relative inexperience of Dublin's panel with only Cian Mac Gabhann, Eoghan O'Donnell and Sean Treacy remaining from the team that contested the All-Ireland MHC final replay against Tipperary last autumn.

Absentees have influenced that statistic with long-term injuries to Cian Boland, Shane Barrett and Chris Bennett denying the Dubs the championship maturity that can be so crucial at this grade.

As a consequence, Dublin's team takes an unfamiliar sheen as 10 clubs are represented in the starting 15, with Ratoath's Daragh Kelly and Eoghan Conroy from St Maur's reflecting the broad canvas from which manager Pat Fanning has made his selection.

How the Dubs fare against an Offaly side that produced a towering second-half performance when dismantling Carlow a fortnight ago could prove hugely instructive when assessing the strength of Dublin's crop this year. Offaly's 5-23 haul against Carlow highlighted their attacking danger with full-forward Colm Daly plundering three goals and he was ably abetted close to goal by inside-forwards James Kilmartin and Jordan Fogarty.

The aforementioned trio benefitted from a wealth of possession provided at centrefield by captain Emmet Nolan and Donal Mahon, with the latter's 1-3 reflecting his scoring threat in open play. However, Dublin look equally strong in that department with the enticing pairing of Andrew Jamieson Murphy and Ryan McBride while dual player O'Donnell will hope to mirror the excellence of his 2012 campaign, this time from a more pivotal position of centre half-back.

Twelve months ago, the Dubs lost to Wexford in the opening round, showing visible signs of rustiness in their first competitive outing. A similarly patchy display could well prove their undoing this afternoon but there should be sufficient depth in their panel to secure a narrow victory.

Verdict: DUBLIN