Champions Dublin without marquee trio for League opener as Monaghan aim for double
Jim Gavin must plan for Sunday's Division 1 league opener away to Monaghan in Clones without a trio of marquee players as Footballer of the Year Brian Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny and James McCarthy are all absent.
The reigning league and All-Ireland champions will be minus the influential trio with McCarthy playing no part in the early rounds as he recovers from a leg injury which forced the 28-year-old to undergo keyhole surgery in recent months.
McCarthy is expected to return midway through the league while Fenton and Kilkenny will be eased back into the squad in the coming weeks having extended their stint abroad following Dublin's team holiday in America and Australia.
Having had a long season between club and county, Kilmacud Crokes duo Cian O'Sullivan and Paul Mannion may also be rested in the early rounds following their Leinster SFC club final defeat to Mullinalaghta.
O'Sullivan and Mannion are understood to have nursed minor hamstring injuries towards the latter stages of the season and may be given further time to recuperate.
Encounters Despite starting back later than most after their All-Ireland triumphs, Gavin's charges have won their four opening league encounters as champions despite some experimentation but Malachy O'Rourke's Farney men will see this as a glorious opportunity to do the double on the Dubs after edging them out in last year's league clash in Croke Park.
With Con O'Callaghan and Brian Howard also kept busy with Sigerson Cup activity, Gavin is likely to dip into their O'Byrne Cup squad with the likes of Seán McMahon, Seán Bugler and Darren Gavin possibly getting the opportunity to stake a claim. As of yet, there have been no retirements from the Dublin fold with Paul Flynn set to combine his playing commitments with his role as CEO of the GPA.
Bernard Brogan is also expected to return for another year having made a herculean recovery from a cruciate knee ligament surgery to play in the 'Super 8s' against Roscommon, although he didn't make the match-day panel for last year's final.
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Meanwhile, Offaly's bid to retain their Division 1B status in the NHL has been dealt a blow with defender Ben Conneely to miss at least six weeks after a burst appendix.
The St Rynagh's clubman has been one of the few shining lights for the Faithful hurlers in recent years but Kevin Martin must plan without him for most of the league.
David King, Dermot Shortt, Thomas and Peter Geraghty as well as the retired Seán Ryan are also not part of Martin's panel.