The All Ireland champions will hit the road this weekend as the Dublin senior footballers travel to Páirc Esler in Newry on Sunday where Down awaits them in Division one of Allianz National League.
Third placed Dublin will certainly have their eyes on the prize in the wake of impressive victories recently over Laois and particularly Armagh who they put to the sword in a comprehensive 4-17 to 1-10 victory in Croke Park last weekend.
Dublin endured a faltering start to the campaign with an opening round defeat to Kerry under the lights in Croke Park followed by the forced abondonment of their clash with Mayo due to adverse weather conditions.
As the campagin has developed however, Pat Gilroy’s men have rallied and are now fully expected to reach the final stages of this year’s league competition once again.
This has been made all the more possible as a result of alterations to proceedings this year which will see the top four in Divison 1 go into the semi-finals as opposed to a straight final between the top two sides in the league.
The boys in blue in particular would certainly relish the opportunity to reach another league final following their collapse in last year’s decider against Cork which saw them relinquish a seven point lead in the second half and endure a defeat that caused some commentators to question their ability to close out crucial games.
Down have endured reverse fortunes to their opponents after they enjoyed a positive start to their 2012 campaign with a victory over fellow Ulstermen Donegal followed by convincing defeats at the hands of Cork and Kerry.
However, James Mccartan’s charges redeemed themselves with a confidence boosting five-point victory over Mayo in Castlebar, a feat which somewhat eased their relegation worries.
The victory lifted Down ouf of bottom place in division one after Mc Cartan’s side showed their steal to outplay a 14-man Mayo team.
There will be no room for complacency this weekend however, and Down will be all too aware of the dangers of another defeat as they continue to battle in division one.
The man currently at the helm of Down football knows all too well about pressure football and former All-Star and Down corner-forward Mc Cartan is considered one of Down’s best ever footballers with two All-Ireland medals to his name, the latter of which came against Dublin in 1994.
The two sides have not met in championship football since Mc Cartan’s days in the mid-1990’s, however they came face to face in last year’s league campaign, with Dublin recording a 2-10 to 0-13 over their Ulster rivals, thereby sealing their place in the league final.
Despite favouring variation and continuing to ring the changes for each game, Mc Cartan has decided to inject some consistency and has gone with a largely unchanged team ahead of this weekend’s clash with Dublin. This has been demonstrated by the inclusion of Aidan Carr in this Sunday’s team, a player who has not featured much this season but impressed in his man of the match performance against Mayo last weekend.
With 2010 Footballer of the Year Bernard Brogan yet to make his 2012 debut, Pat Gilroy will continue to test his attacking options with Kevin McManamon starting at centre-forward, while Alan Brogan will move out to corner-forward at the expense of Mossy Quinn.
2010 U21 All-Ireland winning captain, Johnny Cooper will make his league starting debut after coming off the bench and scoring two ponits in last weekend’s victory over Armagh.
Cooper will come in at corner-back in place of Phily McMahon who is suspended following his sending off against Armagh.
Meanwhile, Stephen Cluxtion will return to replace Michael Savage between the posts.
Kick-off is at 2.30pm in Páirc Esler, Newry on Sunday.
Down v Dublin:
Brendan McVeigh, Daniel McCartan, Conor Garvey, Aiden Branigan, Niall McParland, Dan Gordan, Kevin McKernan, Ambrose Rogers, Kalum King, Daniel Hughes, Mark Poland, Aidan Carr, Conor Maginn, Brendan Coulter, Conor Laverty
Dublin v Down:
Stephen Cluxton, Darren Daly, Rory O’ Carroll, Johnny Cooper , James McCarthy, Ger Brennan, Craig Dias, Eamon Fennell , Michael Darragh Macauley, Paul Brogan, Kevin McManamon, Paul Flynn , Diarmuid Connolly, Eoghan O’ Gara, Alan Brogan