DUBLIN are in a very good place going into their Leinster championship game with Laois in a couple of weeks And will be extremely difficult to dethrone. After successfully defending their league title the focus is now switched to the provincial championship.
Jim Gavin has the luxury of welcoming back players from injury although Kevin O’Brien and Ciaran Kilkenny will take no part in this year’s campaign. Dean Rock and Paul Mannion are back playing and those two players will want to push into the team for the Laois game.
The competition within the squad is huge and that will ensure that the intensity levels will be high during the summer months. There are also a number of players not yet in the set-up that will surely get their chance in the coming years, so from that point of view the picture is very healthy.
The one problem Jim Gavin and his management team will have is trying to dampen the expectations and keeping the players away from the hype will be key. The current squad however are extremely professional and committed and they have the ability and talent to do what no Dublin team has done is nearly 40 years and retain the All-Ireland.
That would also put them along side the very best teams of the last 50 years and not many teams get the opportunity to achieve this. I think the key will be to have everyone fit and fresh for six games which will all be in Croke Park.
It certainly is an exciting time for Dublin football and this is a championship that all supporters in the capital are really looking forward to.
Of the other contenders, I think Meath will be the biggest danger in the province. They came close in last year’s Leinster final and are developing nicely. They are still probably a year or two behind Dublin in terms of conditioning but as we have seen in the past, it is nearly always Meath that break the dominance.
Outside the province Mayo, Kerry, Cork and possibly Tyrone have the necessary talent but again all four teams look to be a level below the Dubs at the present time.
There is very little talk about Mayo this year but they have the players to go all the way to another final. If they can find another half gear they will be very hard to beat. Writing them off would be foolish.
Kerry and Cork are in a similar state of transition but both have some terrific players and on their day they could take anyone out. It would be hard to see them going all the way but they will both be in the quarter-finals.
Tyrone too will be there but again are missing something. They still play the game hard and fair and have a lot of talented players but I can’t see them going all the way.
Dublin are the clear favourites and if they can perform in all their games, they won’t be beaten. I would expect a few battles along the way but in the end this group of players are the most talented we have ever had. Talent alone doesn’t always get you there but it is hard to see any other team stopping them.