After a winter of discontent, Dublin hurlers finally get their competitive season underway against All-Ireland champions Tipperary on Saturday evening. Ger Cunningham will be keen for his young side to nip the murmurs in the bud and let their hurling do the talking.
Should they suffer a repeat of last year’s league opener against the same opposition, the pressure will come thick and fast.
Hampered by the absence of the sizeable Cuala contingent and without the likes of Peter Kelly, Joey Boland, Paul Ryan and Johnny McCaffrey, this is an inexperienced Dublin side.
For a team that were the bookmakers’ favourites to win the All-Ireland title heading into August 2013, the last three and a half years have seen a steady decline for the Metropolitans.
There is undoubtedly still talent oozing through this Dublin panel, but whether Cork-native Cunningham can harness this remains to be seen.
One of the stars of the 2011 League and 2013 Leinster winning teams, Conal Keaney, has raised the stakes for Dublin’s League campaign.
Danny Sutcliffe, arguably the county’s most talented hurler, has had a self-imposed exile since 2015.
Speaking to RTÉ‘s 2fm, the Ballyboden club-man suggested that there is more to Sutcliffe’s absence than the study/travel reasons cited.
“I know he was thinking of really trying to get back involved last year, but I think personalities really came into it and they [Cunningham and Sutcliffe] just clashed. It just wasn’t to be.
“Danny was the best hurler in Dublin when he was playing.
“For this squad now, there’s no point dwelling on players that aren’t there. It’s the way that management want to go with things.”
The lack of experience in the Dublin side is certainly a worry for Keaney, and his comments suggest that this league campaign could define the direction which the rest of Cunningham’s reign will take.
“Time will tell how that will go for him.
“You could probably name a Dublin team at the weekend where there could be a debutant in every line, which is very strange.
“It could be very worrying. It’s also a chance for those young lads.
“There are great hurlers in Dublin. Maybe throwing them into the deep-end isn’t the right thing to do at this stage of their career, but it’s either sink or swim for them for a lot of them now.
“It’s not as if they don’t have any leaders at all. They still have the Gary Maguires, the Liam Rushes, Chris Crummeys, they are great leaders as it is.”
Dublin take on Tipp in Croke Park on Saturday evening, and although success in the league would come as a major boost, all focus is on their Leinster quarter-final date with Galway.