FOR the first time in three years, Anthony Daly can boast an almost entirely clean bill of health when he finalises a Championship selection as Dublin manager.
Kilmacud Crokes’ Seán McGrath is the only player in his squad who will not be considered fit and available for action as Daly’s Dubs get their Leinster SHC campaign under way in Wexford Park on Saturday night (7.0).
McGrath picked up an injury during a team training trip to Cork, where Dublin played challenge matches against both Galway and Clare.
Niall Corcoran, who has battled an osteitis pubis condition since late last year, played 50 minutes against Clare, while Stephen Hiney – a bit-part player during the League owing to an ankle injury – is, according to Daly, “pushing hard to get in”.
Martin Quilty, the last of the Dublin hurling squad to be struck by a cruciate ligament injury last year, is, Daly revealed, both fit and in form.
“He will be pushing to be included,” the Clare man stressed. “He is playing really well and ‘mad for road’ and he will definitely be in the 26. It does take a bit of time, even though you’re back fit to train. I think the couple of club games really stood to him and he really is in good form.”
There will, however, be several areas of interest when Dublin announce their team, mostly with regard to Daly’s most established individuals.
Liam Rushe has been employed both at centre-back and midfield this year, while Conal Keaney has spent plenty of time in both the half-back and half-forward lines.
Ditto Danny Sutcliffe, who did most of his best hurling in the League semi-final loss to Tipperary when he was switched from half-forward to midfield.
“Hopefully we’re coming close to what we want,” Daly explained. “But they are very versatile players too. It would be no surprise to anyone if Danny was centre-back for the Under 21s next Tuesday night. Keaney can play there too or wing-forward or full-forward.
“And Rushey the same. But it’s about settling on what is best for the team. It’s fine saying, ‘Liam there’s number eight, go and win another All Star’. That’s fine, but we need to look at the overall picture and see what is best for Dublin with those lads.”
Daly, meanwhile, has welcomed Ciarán Kilkenny’s recent admission that he may attempt to play both codes at senior level for Dublin next year when he resumes his studies, a move Jim Gavin didn’t entirely rule out at his most recent press briefing.
“I had a chat with him there a few weeks ago, just a general chat,” Daly revealed. “And it is fantastic that he can play for the Under 21s.
“That would be keeping them in touch. Because if you lose touch completely we’ve seen it with other lads – no matter how good you are, it is hard to get back.
“Ciarán was obviously a top class underage player. And it would be great if he could keep his options open.
“It will probably come down to an individual being tough enough to say it. Rory O’Carroll, to be fair to him, played Fitzgibbon this year.
“I’m not sure how high that was on Jim Gavin’s list of priorities, but Rory decided he was going playing it. It takes a bit of that and I think Ciarán has that,” Daly concluded.
Meanwhile, Wexford hurling manager Liam Dunne insists Saturday night’s visit of Dublin to Wexford represents “a great draw” for the Slaneysiders, despite many local perceptions.
Dunne, in his second season as Wexford supremo, stressed that Dublin – against whom his team have lost twice already this year in both the Walsh Cup and Division 2 of the Allianz Hurling League – are precisely the test his side need to elevate themselves to the next level.
“We all want to get going now,” he explained. “The preparations are almost done and it will be up to the lads to perform, we know the task ahead of us.
“We need to test ourselves, people said this was an awful draw, I don’t think so though. I think it’s a great draw.”