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Recruits ready to step-up

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ANTHONY DALY has challenged some of his new recruits with establishing permanency amongst the Dublin hurling squad this year.

Whilst endorsing the prospects of the core group that landed the Bob O'Keeffe Cup last year, Dublin's first such success in 52 years (all of whom, bar Maurice O'Brien, have reported again for duty for 2014), Daly is nevertheless mindful of the need to spruce up the group with fresh talent.

Duly, the Clare man will annoint some of the most promising hurlers in Dublin tomorrow night in the Leinster champion's Walsh Cup opener with UCD in Parnell Park (7.0), with Seánie McClelland, Paul Winters, Cian O'Callaghan and Colm Cronin – key men on the minor team which drew and lost an All-Ireland minor final and replay to Tipperary – all expected to see some action.

"They're getting better and they're getting more used to the training," Daly told the Herald.

"It's very encouraging. Some of them are really stepping up, the lads who were minors a couple of years ago."

Winters, in particular, has been in fine form of late, scoring 2-4 in a recent outing against Offaly, although all have been utilised during Dublin's lap of the challenge circuit.

Daly brought McClelland, Cronin and O'Callaghan into his provisional panel at this stage last year, though they were cut adrift prior to spring in order to devote their focus to the Leaving Cert.

All are available to Daly tomorrow and any subsequent Walsh Cup matches on the basis they are currently Freshers in their respective colleges and thus ineligible for the Fitzgibbon Cup and, by extension, these pre-season competitions for their third-level institutes.

CAREFUL

"You have to be careful really," Daly warned. "You're just trying to manage their load in conjunction with their Freshers' managers.

"Cian, Colm and Seánie have all had injuries in the past while, so you have to watch them and make sure they're not doing too much.

"While you can't expect them to be up to speed straight away with their strength and that sort of thing, there are very encouraging signs.

"And the lads who have been with us for a couple of years now – the likes of Chris Crummy and Glen Whelan – they're showing a bit of form as well," he added.

Similar, Daly is pleased with Alan McCrabbe's recent return to the fold and anticipates some game time in blue sooner rather than later as the Craobh Chiaráin former All Star recuperates from a broken hand.

He predicted: "I'm sure in two or three weeks, he'll be back in the running."

As it stands, Daly has only ruled Paul Schutte (broken thumb) out for Dublin's League opener against Galway, an injury synopsis of relative privilege in comparison with recent seasons.

"Paul obviously will be out for two or three rounds. But outside of that, I'd be happy that we have a full squad to pick from. Fingers crossed, there's lots of college matches between now and then."

At present, Daly's squad number is 42 but, as he explained: "Realistically, we won't have 26 for Saturday now. That's the nature of this time of year."

Dublin played UL in a challenge match on Wednesday night and UCD should constitute an equally thorough examination of Daly's early season work. However, the Dublin manager is highly encouraged by the attitude shown by the men who made up the bedrock of last year's success, even if not all will be available tomorrow evening.

DRIVE

"There's great drive in the lads," the Clare man enthused.

"The older lads like Dotsy (David O'Callaghan), Ryan O'Dwyer, (Conal) Keaney ... they look really sharp.

"I'd say (Stephen) Hiney contemplated maybe would he give it another shot or not but once he came back, he's straight into it. He's back 110 per cent. That's really encouraging.

"Then you have the guys like Joey (Boland), Johnny (McCaffrey), Shane Durkin ... they're mid-20s and they're really in great shape.

"We'll be going out to win on Saturday anyway but with the few lads out, we'll be experimenting between positioning and personnel.

"Obviously we'll be down the two corner backs from last year (Schutte and Niall Corcoran) we won't have Liam (Rushe) either.

"Up front, (David) Treacy and Danny (Sutcliffe) won't be around but it's a good chance to give some of these fellas a chance to have a go at it.

"We'll be okay strength-wise. But we will be throwing a few lads in for their first starts."


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