IT'S the big 'what if' that hangs over the Dublin hurlers.
What if they stop springing injuries to key men between now and the end of the league? And what if they get their three influential cruciate victims back and sharp before the real hurling begins in the summer?
What if David Treacy's hamstrings hold for good this time? And what if Ross O'Carroll slips back into the swing of things like his two-year hiatus had never happened?
Imagine 'what if' all those things happened and what sort of team Dublin would put out?
Tomás Brady -- one of the players entwined in the 'what if' scenarios -- finds himself daydreaming of the strength of the Dublin side if, one fine day, everyone checked in with a clean bill of health.
"There is great confidence amongst the panel that we're within touching distance of great things," he says with the sort of sunny optimism that Dublin projected all last year, despite the alarming escalation of their walking wounded.
"There is no doubt about it. The ability is there. The panel is very strong but if you had your strongest 15 out there, we would rival anyone," he insists.
"We have big goals as a team for this year. It's just we're looking forward to having everyone back to full fitness."
Brady admits he thinks about the summer "every single day", as he enters the final stages of a painstaking recuperation from the cruciate ligament injury which ruined his 2011. And his pending return couldn't be more timely for Anthony Daly, for whom the term 'luckless' is now taking on a completely new dimension.
Brady has earmarked the first round of the Leinster SHC as the date for his comeback, but hasn't yet entirely ruled out making some appearance in the league after throwing himself into months of endless recovery work.
"Our last league game is on April 1. I definitely won't be rushing back for it. But if things go well for the next four weeks, I might be in a position where I might be available to be on the panel," he says.
"But that's all dependent on how the next four weeks go. It's definitely felt a lot stronger in the last few weeks."
"At this stage, it nearly feels like I'm on the home straight. I have seven months behind me and in that seven months, you get ups and downs and you're wondering will you ever get back the same as you were. The thing is you just keep your head down all the time and keep that date in your mind. The bad moments, they don't feel as bad now."
It was stated Dublin policy last year not to reference their absentees in the run up to -- or look back over -- any of their matches, yet by the time they played Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final, Brady, Stephen Hiney, Conal Keaney, David Treacy and Oisín Gough were all hors de combat.
Now, Liam Rushe and Peter Kelly are both out for this Sunday's visit of Cork to Croke Park (2.0)0 and, as Brady notes, you don't have to look back too far to see how debilitating a raft of injuries to important players can be to any team -- no matter how great.
"You look at Kilkenny last year," he says. "They were without five key players for the league final last year and you saw what happened to them that day. We need as strong a team as we possibly can to get to that next level but, in saying that, we have plenty of new lads.
"There are new lads there that can take up the mantle. But it's something we're trying not to dwell on too much."
Given the emergence of light at the end of Brady's own personal tunnel, though, it's entirely understandable that he is optimistic about the coming months.
His recuperation was made all the more awkward by virtue of having a second operation to repair a dislocated shoulder he had been nursing for a season or so, meaning his initial activity was severely minimised. "Every day you're thinking about getting back playing," he enthuses. "That stage for me is championship and you think about it every day. You use it as motivation to do the work. That's the thing about being injured -- I was viewing it as a mid-career service.
"It's a good way of looking at it. Any other deficiencies, it's a good way to improve on them and look to get back as a better athlete," he adds. "This is my chance to get back better than I ever was."