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Many happy returns

TYPICALLY, Anthony Daly has major selection problems for Sunday's crucial relegation play-off with Galway -- but for once, they're of the sort he likes.

The exasperating and debilitating plague of injuries which has haunted Dublin over the past year is quickly clearing and Daly expects both Peter Kelly and Paul Ryan to feature against the Tribesmen in Tullamore for the right to play top-flight hurling next year.

Furthermore - and of greater long-term significance - Dublin's long-term absentees, Tomás Brady, Conal Keaney and Stephen Hiney - or "the three cruciates" as Daly has dubbed them - took a full part in the training camp in Portugal over the Easter weekend and all three look primed to make their competitive comebacks in the first round of the Dublin SHC 'A' in just over two weeks, with an eye on a return to blue pencilled in for the Leinster SHC opener with Carlow or Laois on Saturday, June 2 (in Portlaoise).

"The big break for us over the week was the 'three cruciates' trained," a delighted Daly told the Herald.

"Every one of them played the games. They're not ready for matches yet but they will be ready for the club championship.

"You can see them being a bit tentative doing stuff like catching and turning. But they played the full half hour."

"It was the biggest plus of the whole week," the Dublin boss insisted. "It's a huge plus for the three boys. We had targetted the weekend of Portugal as the weekend they were pushing themselves to be ready for so it's a huge plus for everybody.

"Everybody was on a high and they're on a high themselves. It looks good but the next few weeks are vital to make sure nothing silly happens."

All going to plan, Brady should make his comeback for Na Fianna when they take on Faughs in Parnell Park on April 25 while both Hiney and Keaney will return for Ballyboden in their opening championship defence against St Vincent's at the Donnycarney venue three nights later.

"They should be available for the club championship matches," Daly confirmed.

"That's the beauty of having three rounds of the championship before we play. It gives us a chance to see them tested in a real match."

Ryan - who hobbled out of Dublin's dramatic defeat by Kilkenny in Nowlan Park with a hamstring tear - has been diagnosed as having "about 50 minutes in him" for Sunday's match although Daly has yet to decide whether he will start last year's All-Ireland SHC top-scorer or spring him from the bench.

However, against the backdrop of a high percentage of missed frees against both Waterford and Tipperary, it is likely that the Boden dead-ball specialist will start.

"There is a fatigue factor," Daly explained. "We just have to weigh up whether he will start or finish."

Kelly, meanwhile, hasn't played since Dublin's league opening day defeat by Sunday's opponents in Salthill and Daly branded his return to an already in-form full-back line "a huge plus for us".

He added: "It gives us a huge headache because the full-back line have been playing well, to be fair to them. But that's what we want."

In addition, both Shane Durkin and 2011 Young Hurler of the Year, Liam Rushe, have recovered from knocks and are set to start against Galway although both Maurice O'Brien and Conor Clinton have been ruled out with minor injuries.

"It will be a hard enough team to pick," Daly acknowledged. "We saw a good bit over the weekend. We played two matches. It's a lot of hurling and we had a few meetings so I think we have a 15 in our head."

The Clareman revealed that training in Portugal had been tapered to prepare for next Sunday's match, but added: "We're worried about ourselves really. We're gone away from those days of getting caught up in the opposition."

Sunday's venue - O'Connor Park - was the scene of Dublin's landmark championship victory over the Tribesmen last year and Daly acknowledged: "I think it was kind of a day Dublin hurling made a bit of a statement.

"Taking out the likes of Galway in the championship was a big move from where we had been.

"But this is different," he added. "It's a league (relegation) play-off.

"It's not the end of the world for either team if they lose it. But it still is a big game.

"We wouldn't be playing it down at all.

"It would be a disappointment but you have to pick yourself up for the championship.

"That's the priority," concluded Daly.


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