DUBLIN boss Pat Gilroy has defended his policy of pre-dawn training sessions that will see his players sweating it out again at 6.30 in the morning this month.
Eyebrows were raised at Dublin's 'early bird' sessions last season, which were often combined with another session later on the same day.
But Gilroy is adamant that it worked for them and they're sticking with it.
"It's good to start early, it gives lads a chance to get to work afterwards and a lot of fellas prefer that to being out five times per week," he said.
"There's stuff you just have to fit into this month; it's the only time of the year you have a chance to do it. This just allows us to do work in a certain way; we might do a little bit of it, but again it all depends on the weather."
A wide`scale absence of players, for a variety of reasons, means Gilroy will be experimenting heavily with players in this month's O'Byrne Cup, in which the Dubs open against Westmeath on Sunday.
"At last count it was 24 different fellas that we can't use this month due to injury or because they're committed to their colleges or with Kilmacud's club run," the manager said. "It'll definitely be a new-look team playing in the O'Byrne Cup, but that's no harm."
The only serious downside, he said, was that this forces them to carry a huge New Year training panel, which will have to be slashed before the National League opener against Armagh on Saturday, February 5.
"We can't whittle it down yet, otherwise we'd have no team out in the O'Byrne Cup, so you have to carry a big panel in the month of January. We have 45 training just to have 22 for it," Gilroy said. "We'll have to bring that down to about 32-33 for training purposes come the National League, and then you're only able to bring 26 (on an official panel).
"That makes it a little bit harder and tighter on fellas to make the squad and also makes it more difficult for us to deal with injuries. You want to be able to have 15-a-side in training. The 26-man panel is a bit annoying, but we just have to get on with it."
Gilroy has made no secret that finding a new full-back to fill in for Rory O'Carroll's enforced absence will be one of his early priorities. O'Carroll is club-tied with Kilmacud, and he's expected to miss all of the National League because he's working in Paris.
"We've no choice but to experiment there because we won't have the Kilmacud lads back depending on their progress, so we will definitely try out a couple of fellas at full-back," said Gilroy.
Dublin will start the NFL without several regulars due to what the manager calls "legacy injuries" from last year.
"We are down quite significant numbers -- the likes of Ross McConnell, Eamon Fennell and Paul Flynn won't be back until the end of February," he said.
Their latest casualty is All-Ireland U-21-winning Cian Mullins (St Brigid's), who damaged his hamstring last Saturday. But one good bit of news is that captain Paul Griffin is nearly ready to return after being out since March with a torn cruciate.
"Paul's back running fully and I think he could play a friendly match sometime this month," Gilroy said, though the timing of Griffin's inter-county return will also depend on Kilmacud's progress.
But the Dublin manager remains optimistic that all of their carry-over injuries from the 2010 season -- apart from Mark Davoren -- will be ready to rejoin the panel by the end of February.