The Dublin Senior Hurlers will hit the road this weekend as they commence the defence of their Allianz Division one title away to Galway on Sunday.
Dublin enjoyed their best League campaign since 1939 last year when they won the title after a superb campaign where they beat Tipperary, Wexford, Offaly and Cork, drew with Kilkenny and Waterford and lost to Galway in the group games before beating Kilkenny in the final.
Galway also have reasons to be positive as they look forward to their first League match with new manager Anthony Cunningham at the helm and the Corribsiders will be hoping for a significant improvement on the 2011 campaign.
The county was delighted to announce the appointment of the ever enthusiastic Cunningham and it is hoped that he can lift spirits and erase any lingering memories of last year’s hammering at the hands of Waterford in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Cunningham, who will be double jobbing as Garrycastle manager until March 17, already has a great record with Galway, leading the u-21 hurlers to All-Ireland success.
Cunningham has kept faith with much of that side and eight of the fifteen who started the U-21 final are expected to line-out on Sunday.
However, this cannot be translated into senior success and Cunningham will be hoping that his players can take confidence from their impressive Walsh Cup campaign, which only ended in defeat to Kilkenny in the final.
In what is new territory for them, defending champions Dublin will go into Sunday’s game as favourites in the wake of last year’s league success.
However, the 2011 Allianz League encounter between the two sides proved to be one of few defeats suffered by the sky blues and with only five teams in the top division this year, Anthony Daly and his charges will be aware of the dangers of complacency.
Despite great expectations for the forthcoming 2012 campaign, Galway will have to do without their talisman in the form of Joe Canning after the Portumna man picked up sustained while on Fitzgibbon Cup duty with LIT.
It is thought that the injury is not as bad as it was initially feared however, Canning is a definite absentee for between two and four weeks and therefore must watch Sunday’s game from the side-lines.
Meanwhile, Niall Healy, Andy Smith and Kevin Hynes are ruled out through injury.
Dublin’s starting 15 will feature 11 players who began last summer’s All-Ireland SHC semif-final defeat to Tipperary as boss Anthony Daly hands starting league debuts to Danny Sutcliffe and Shane Stapleton.
Daly will welcome news of confirmation that that Young Hurler of the Year Liam Rushe, Peter Kelly and David Treacy are fit to make the trip to the west.
However Daly must do without David O’Callaghan (pneumonia) and Paul Schutte (hamstring), while Conal Keaney, Tomás Brady and Stephen Hiney are all long-term absentees.
The game will kick-off at 2.30pm in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.