Another league has passed, another trophy in the Dublin cabinet and another year we look forward to provincial and All-Ireland Championships thinking ‘how is anyone going to stop Dublin?’
It’s four League titles in a row now for Jim Gavin’s men, this will be most likely followed by another Leinster and by time we get to the All-Ireland they will be sure favourites.
This pattern is what people outside of the capital have become used to watching. People believe that only the old guards like Kerry are the teams that can take them down; and why wouldn’t they? The two most successful teams in the country are Kerry and Dublin.
Between the two, they have won 31 league trophies, Kerry have won their provincial title 77 times and Dublin have won Leinster 54 times.
Why would the teams they come up against in their respective provinces not fear them? Who can really challenge Dublin in Leinster this year? Kildare and Meath are the closest teams to them; a Division 2 team and a Division 3 winner.
Kerry’s biggest challengers are Cork. They are a strange one, this county, once strong at both codes has fallen away this year, demoted from Division 1 and severally struggling.
So, by all accounts it should be an easy provincial run for the two. But, what happens when they are truly tested in the All-Ireland championship?
Going off their league form both should sail comfortably to the final; this is what people have come to expect. However, Championship is a whole different ball game, and expectations can be a dangerous thing.
Jim McGuinness has long been an advocate that every team has their weakness, nobody is perfect and once you exploit the weakness, more cracks will begin to show.
In 2011, he saw the weakness within the Dublin side, he saw that Dublin left their half-backs back, which meant if they soaked up pressure and then drove out of defence in numbers, they would meet flat footed defenders.
That day, Donegal did not accomplish what they set out to do and that game will be remembered as one of the worst games of football in history. However, what it did do was point out that Dublin could be stopped.
The previous game, Dublin had kicked 19 points from play against Tyrone. In this match, they only managed four points in both halves. They went on to win the final against Kerry.
In 2013, Dublin won another league, another Leinster and another All-Ireland final; and in 2014, they looked to be building again on their success and looked unstoppable.
McGuinness later revealed in his book Until Victory Always that despite Dublin being outright favourites, he had his game plan made out before Donegal had been drawn against them in the Championship.
He recalls hours spent going over Dublin tapes, figuring out how they could be beaten. It was bold and risky, but he was full sure it would work. So sure of his plan, he wrote Donegal 3-16 vs Dublin 0-12 on a whiteboard before the game. The final score was Donegal 3-14 vs Dublin 0-17.
Donegal went on to lose that final against Kerry.
Now we find ourselves going into another summer of GAA and the two names that come up straight away are Dublin and Kerry. But McGuinness once more has spotted a weakness in the Dublin side.
In a recent article in the Irish Times, he named Mayo as favourites to beat the Dubs this year, but also believes that Kerry, Donegal and Tyrone have the capability.
But to do so, they need to be brave in their game-plan and look outside of their strengths and weaknesses.
“Everyone knows their strengths. So: what are you going to do about it? What is your plan of action?” he questions.
Proof that Dublin can be taken down lies in that game in 2011 and again in 2014. No matter your opinion on Donegal football, they have proven Dublin can be beaten. This year is no different.
Dublin are a weaker side this year than they were last. They may be one of the best conditioned and the best drilled teams ever to pull on the sky blue jersey, but losing Jack McCaffrey at half-back is a huge blow for them.
Losing the Footballer of the Year is a set-back to any team, no matter how strong and well-drilled they are. They are also without another starting player, Rory O’Carroll. This inevitably makes them more vulnerable than they were last year.
They can be beaten. And, looking forward to the Championship in August, this writer believes they will be beaten.