Gilroy: Dubs must put in hard yards
YEAR four of Pat Gilroy's reign. The All-Ireland win of 2011 is consigned to history and now the focus is on Dublin's first championship outing of 2012.
So when Gilroy says his team is not "really any good", it's a real attention-getter.
But it's not as damning an indictment of the boys in blue as it sounds.
Gilroy, pragmatic, clear-minded and ruthlessly honest about the capabilities of his squad, is concerned about the potential enemy within: complacency, a lack of hunger, a lessening of the core desire to make the hard yards.
"We always have to make sure that we keep that foundation there, that the intensity is in our game, and it's a key part of what we do," he said.
"If we are not doing it, we are not really any good."
Louth await the Dubs in Croke Park on Sunday with a game under their belt after their dramatic victory over Westmeath.
Now it's time for the Dublin players to turn up and produce a performance that will show their manager they have got the message.
The former All-Ireland winner of 1995 didn't accuse the players -- at least not publicly -- of thinking that all they had to do was turn up and collect a victory in each of their league games.
Loyalty is not on the agenda, at least, not blind loyalty that sees players get their place on past deeds, and reputations count for nothing with Gilroy.
They know that the competition Gilroy (left) has brought to the squad means nobody rests on their laurels.
"It's a new year and different things happen. You have to see what's in front of you and keep objective on it. Loyalty can be misguided sometimes," said Gilroy.
"Last year is gone now and it's all about 2012. Definitely, some people have pushed themselves forward who didn't play last year."
Already changes have been made to the panel as the manager seeks to freshen up the dynamic within the group.
The St Vincent's man ideally wants two players competing to the maximum for the blue starting jersey, not only on Sunday, but for the entire campaign.
Dublin discovered last year that their internal 'A' v 'B' games upped the ante for everyone.
"There were times the 'B' team beat the 'A' team and those matches really kept us all on our toes," said Barry Cahill.
Gilroy wants more of the same for this year, and his approach is enhanced by the performance of the U-21 squad, which won the All-Ireland recently.
"We want to have 32 or 33 guys that really have a chance of playing. It's hard to get to that, but we are moving towards that kind of luxury at the moment," said Gilroy.
Reflecting on the league, Gilroy admitted he and his back-room team were trying to adjust the pattern of play with a view to offering something different to the opposition this year.
"In some of those league games, we were trying to do things that we didn't do before and they didn't work out.
"Maybe as a result of us trying new things we lost some of our intensity, some of the basics of our game."
Looking around the GAA landscape, two factors are evident to Gilroy: firstly, the threats are many and varied to Dublin's crown, and secondly, football is not in such a parlous state as many observers have suggested.
"Teams definitely took steps forward in the league. Mayo, Kildare, Cork, maybe Tyrone and Down improved from where they were last year. Kerry's league form, bar the game against Mayo, was pretty impressive," he said.
"There are a lot of teams which have a reasonable chance going into the championship."
As for the football, Gilroy is in no doubt that the game is as exciting to watch as it ever has been.
"The guys in DCU have done a whole lot of stats on these things and they say the quality of the game is higher now. People can look back with nostalgia, but there are far more touches on the ball and the ball is given away less than it was in the '70s," he said.
"Those stats are the facts. I'm sure football could improve, but, in general, it's a great game to watch."