Leinster Championship gets underway

The Leinster football championship gets underway today with a double-header at Croke Park.

The Leinster football championship gets underway today with a double-header at Croke Park.

The main attraction is the clash of Dublin and Longford, with Kildare taking on Wicklow in the curtain-raiser.

Dubs' boss Paul Caffrey has played down his team's chances against Luke Dempsey's Longford and his side are relaxed going into the clash as a result of the low-key build-up.

Caffrey has handed Stephen O'Shaughnessy his senior football championship debut at left corner-back after the Lucan Sarsfield club man impressed during a league campaign that was blighted by the Dubs' dip in away form.

Coman Goggins has been named at left half-back, with Peadar Andrews on the bench. Barry Cahill is in the heart of defence, leaving Bryan Cullen free to move forward. Alan Brogan leads the attack, flanked by Cullen and Colin Moran.

It is three years since Dublin won the Leinster title and the prize for today's winners is a semi-final date with Meath next month.

Longford have been going well since Dempsey's appointment and made an impression in the league before they lost out on a place in the latter stages as they drew with eventual Division 2 champions Monaghan.

The former Westmeath boss has made four changes from the side that drew with Monaghan.

Skipper Paul Barden and Niall Sheridan have shaken off injuries and are named in the side.

Dominic Glennon and Bernard McElvaney will make their championship debuts and are named in place of Kevin Mulligan and David Blessington, who is injured.

Also set for debuts are attackers Paul Dowd and Brian Kavanagh.

In the curtain-raiser, Kildare are expected to make light work of a Wicklow side that boasts six newcomers.

Hugh Kenny has handed debuts to full-back Brendan Daly and half-back Kevin Manning, James Stafford and David Dillon form a new midfield partnership, while David Smullen and Paul Earls join the attack. The experienced Wayne O'Gorman is named at full-forward.

But Kildare have worries of their won as Padraig Nolan has to do without defenders Andrew McLoughlin and Karl Ennis.

Both players failed to recover from injury this week and fitness tests ruled them out of the equation for selection.

Anthony Rainbow moves from the left to the right corner of defence to make way for Round Towers club man Padraig Mullarkey, who is making his first championship start for two years.

Midfielder Michael Foley moves to right half-back, Glenn Ryan is in the heart of defence, flanked on the other wing by Clane's David Lyons.

Willy Heffernan partners Killian Brennan at midfield, while U21 star Padraig O'Neill gets his first start at centre-forward, flanked by Eamonn Callaghan and Ronan Sweeney, who has recovered from a hip injury.

Stuart McKenzie-Smith is named at full-forward with the experienced Tadgh Fennin and John Doyle in the corners.

DUBLIN (SFC v Longford): S Cluxton; P Griffen, P Christie, S O'Shaughnessy; P Casey, B Cahill, C Coggins; C Whelan, S Ryan; C Moran, A Brogan, B Cullen; J Sherlock, C Keaney, T Quinn.

LONGFORD (SFC v Dublin): D Sheridan; D Brady, C Conefrey, E Ledwith; A 'Connor, D Glennon, D Reilly; P O'Hara, B McElvaney; J Martin, P Barden, P Dowd; B Kavanagh, N Sheridan, P Davis.

KILDARE (SFC v Wicklow): E Murphy; A Rainbow, D Hendy, P Mullarkey; M Foley, G Ryan, D Lyons; W, Heffernan, K Brennan; E Callaghan, P O'Neill, R Sweeney; T Fennin, S Mackenzie-Smith, J Doyle.

WICKLOW (SFC v Kildare): R Hollingsworth; C Hyland, B Daly, T Burke; K Manning, D O hAnnaigh, B O hAnnaigh; J Stafford, D Dillon; D Smullen, L Glynn, T Harney; P Earls, W O'Gorman, A Ellis.

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