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New-look Dublin are taking shape

Gilroy set to hand out plenty of league debuts as new management put own stamp on Blues


Dublin manager Pat Gilroy

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy

Dublin manager Pat Gilroy

With their Walsh Cup involvement ending a week shy of a final after a tired, depleted closing 25 minutes to Sunday's semi-defeat to Wexford in Parnell Park, Pat Gilroy's focus shifts naturally towards his first league campaign as Dublin hurling manager.

On Saturday week, his team play Offaly in Croke Park in their first Division 1B game (5.0).

And in keeping with the atmosphere of change that has hung over the embryonic stages of Gilroy's reign, the indications are that he will field a team with a discernably unfamiliar look to it.

Gilroy's selections in their three competitive games so far have revealed a straight-forward logic, not customarily seen in January.

Players who played well started the next day. Others waited their chance.

Asked whether he had many to return from injury in advance of the Offaly game, Gilroy revealed that he had "six or seven," but added: "We had another training session this morning with guys who were just coming back and all of them came through that well.

"Some of them won't be fit enough to play, but we should have everybody available to us by the time the Offaly match comes.

"They won't have played much hurling at that stage so I'd say it won't be much different to what we have at the moment."

Which would mean starting a defence in which four members have just one league start and no championship appearances between them.


Given that they played all three Walsh Cup games and that both Eoghan O'Donnell and Liam Rushe are currently among the injured list, it is almost certain then that the spine of Gilroy's defence will be manned by Bill O'Carroll and Darren Kelly.

The two played minor for Dublin in 2008 but for one reason or another, never made it on to a senior squad through their early-to-mid 20s.

Cian Henricken, eligible for this year's Dublin under-21 team, is also a shoo-in after a constant, tidy presence this month.

Paddy Smyth, meanwhile, started on the national league's opening night last year in a defence that was pulled apart by a barely-interested Tipperary side but left the squad shortly after.

There is no reason to suspect Gilroy will stray too far from his Walsh Cup defence.

Firstly, Oisín Gough, Cian O'Callaghan, Paul Schutte and Seán Moran are otherwise engaged in Cuala's All-Ireland club bid.

Peter Kelly, like Rushe and O'Donnell, is on his way back from injury.

More pertinently however, Gilroy has pronounced himself happy with his new men's willingness to "put their bodies on the lines to stop goals being scored".

Given they shipped 18 in nine league and championship games last year, the curbing of such chances is one of Gilroy's stated early tasks.

"We've used 46 (players) in total in games," he explained of the auditioning process that also took in challenges against TIpperary, Cork and Waterford in recent weeks.

"We'll be cutting it back just below the 40 mark for the league.

"Again we have so many coming back from injury as well, we've five or six lads who will be back training with us alright but it will be another month before they are match fit."

Tomás Connolly is another who could make his league debut against Offaly after forming a productive midfield partnership with Johnny McCaffrey during the Walsh Cup.

And in attack, Alan Moore, Paul Winters and Fergal Whitely should - if Gilroy's selection trend holds - all start their first league games, although Whitely did come on as a sub in last year's relegation play-off with Clare in Ennis and all three of Dublin's subsequent championship matches.

That could bring the number of debuts up to seven, with McCaffrey, Danny Sutcliffe and Alan Nolan the likeliest of the returning Dubs to get their chance in Gilroy's opening league game.

"It would have been nice to get a game next weekend but we won't be losing any sleep over it either," Gilroy said of the missed opportunity to play Kilkenny in this Sunday's Walsh Cup final

"We'll play internal games and we are playing DCU during the week as well. We'll be training hard again this week.

"It would have been nice to get a game next Sunday but we'll do an internal one instead."

Physically, Dublin flagged visibly last Sunday but as Gilroy acknowledged, the workload should ease ahead of Saturday week. Asked about his infamous early-morning sessions, Gilroy smiled: "There's been the odd one, yeah.

"But their appetite for work is phenomenal and you're putting them under pressure at the moment, so they are not as fresh for games as they could be.

"So that's fine.

"Our intensity completely went out of it and we changed a couple of lads to try and bring that back.

"It came back a little bit towards the end but it is January and you're going to expect to see that. But the first 51 or 52 minutes of that was very good."