Manager: Jim Gavin (1st Year)
Captain: Rotated throughout Allianz League
Allianz League 2013: Division I; opener v Cork, Feb 2
Allianz League 2012: 5th in Division I
Championship 2012: Leinster champions; All-Ireland semi-finalists
Allianz League Record: 9-time winners
Star Man: Bernard Brogan
One to Watch: Jack McCaffrey
Injury List: Alan Brogan (osteitis pubis), Eoghan O’Gara (hip surgery), Cian O’Sullivan (hamstring), Michael Fitzsimons (hip surgery)
Players Out: Eamonn Fennell, Ross McConnell, Michael Savage, Paul Brogan, Tomás Quinn (retired), Paul Casey (retired)
Players In: Cormac Costello, Paul Hudson, Tomás Brady, Shane Supple, Dean Rock, Declan O’Mahony, Eric Lowndes, Shane Carthy, Davy Byrne.
Judging by the level of experimentation new manager Jim Gavin has conducted in the O’Byrne Cup, and his eagerness to promote players from recent successful underage teams to the senior ranks, it’s highly likely we’ll see a new-look Dublin team in the Allianz League this spring.
It’s natural that a new manager would want to see every option available to him before the far more serious business of championship football takes place much further down the road, but for all Gavin’s tinkering, the reality is that while there may be places to be won in the wider Dublin squad, there are far fewer going in the starting XV.
Gavin’s first job as manager was to reshape a squad he inherited from Pat Gilroy. Tomás Quinn and Paul Casey both retired, while Eamonn Fennell, Ross McConnell and Paul Brogan were culled to make way for a fresh batch of talent that Gavin, who guided the Dubs to the All-Ireland U21 title last year, helped nurse through the underage grades.
Ciarán Kilkenny, Jack McCaffrey and Emmet Ó Conghaile all got some game time under Gilroy last year and are likely to feature far more prominently in 2013, while Cormac Costello and Paul Hudson are amongst those already making an impression after being handed their call-up papers at the start of the season.
Kilkenny’s decision to turn his back on an AFL career with Hawthorn and commit to the Dublin football team is a major plus for Gavin, although the Castleknock youngster will not be available until his club’s All-Ireland Junior Championship campaign ends. On top of that, Tomás Brady has switched his focus from inter-county hurling to football, while Ó Conghaile, Costello and Lowndes eschewed advances from Dublin senior hurling manager Anthony Daly. All in all it’s been a very profitable few months in terms of recruitment for Gavin.
Of the newcomers, Kilkenny has already proven his worth with that remarkably mature performance against Mayo last summer, while Jack McCaffrey looks to the manor born and a natural and exciting prospect at wing-back. If Costello continues his current rate of progress, there is no reason why he, along with Hudson, can’t use the Allianz League to stake a claim for a summer role.
Allianz League Fixtures
Feb 2: v Cork (h)
Feb 10: v Kerry (a)
Mar 2: v Mayo (h)
Mar 10: v Kildare (a)
Mar 16: v Tyrone (h)
Mar 23: v Down (h)
Apr 7: v Donegal (a)
Injuries to Alan Brogan and Eoghan O’Gara mean there are openings in the forward line at the moment, although Gavin’s decision to use established forwards Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan from the start of the O’Byrne Cup suggests they will feature prominently in the Allianz League. Both look hungry and in excellent shape ahead of the new campaign.
Dublin have an O’Byrne Cup final against Kildare on Saturday night in Parnell Park, and that should serve as an excellent work-out ahead of their Allianz League opener against Cork in Croke Park on February 2. The Dubs were erratic in last year’s Allianz League - untouchable in the 16-point hammering of Armagh; completely outplayed in their refixed game against Mayo in MacHale Park – and failed to make the semi-finals having contested the final the year before.
With five games in Croke Park and with a hungry young squad desperate to prove themselves to a new manager, Dublin are likely to feature prominently in the shake-up for Allianz League honours this year.
Throughout the Allianz Leagues, team news, score updates and previews will be available on all Official GAA platforms so make sure to follow @officialgaa on Twitter and facebook.com/officialgaa to stay informed.