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Last weeks column mentioned the predictability of the 2014 football championships. Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Donegal got the most nominations last May and hey presto, here they are, all lined up for the final two fences.

The Evening Herald Gaelic football columnists had a go at the prediction game before a ball was thrown in and a feature of the championship supplement was a piece called 'The Usual Suspects' . There was a very high hit rate.

So, Dublin to win versus Donegal and then a handy enough final to complete the first two-in-a-row under the same manager in nearly a quarter of a century seems to be the national narrative? Are the Dubs really unbeatable? A winning average against all comers to date of 15 points suggest they are miles ahead of the posse and when you have the country's best players and best management in excellent sync you really are in a great place.

I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Dublin's Philly McMahon on radio recently and I enquired how Dublin prepared well and then consistently performed well despite the background noise of undiluted favouritism.

The word Philly used that stuck with me was 'humility' and the sense that they worked hard within the camp as individuals, worked hard as a group and in a real way, enjoyed each others company. The sense of purpose they show was real, their endeavours totally committed to the idea of team and the idea of the well-oiled machine is an easy one to envisage. My own line, borrowed from various coaches over the years, covers this mood perfectly: Honesty of Effort.

But all athletes will know that there is often a day when the favourite is a little off-key, has been over or under cooked and presents for big games just a little flat. It happened Dublin in the final last year and Mayo really should have taken them down.

Of course it's easier to beat unbeatable teams (is that an oxymoron?) in soccer where a single goal well defended, or a penalty shoot out, can herald the underdog to the winners podium. Gaelic football, because there is a different scoring system, favours the best team most of the time. But you don't have to be an old man to remember how unbackable and unbeatable every body thought Kerry (1982 v Offaly), Dublin (1992 v Donegal) and Kerry (2002 v Armagh) were.

We know also from recent history that because of the improvement in standards of competing counties, it is an absolute requirement that champions must replicate, if not surpass, the massive hunger and desire shown the previous year. That same history book tells us those champions have failed to do so.

So, who will be the team that beats the team, every body said cannot be beaten? Around this time last year Donegal held pole position only to be hammered by Mayo. This time around Dublin are in the box seat but take it as read the remaining trio have their eyes firmly set on the cup.

Belief within a camp is often the last story to seep out when it really is the only story that matters. Elite footballers have no business competing if they don't believe in themselves and their team and this is why nobody at this stage of a championship is unbeatable. Mayo, Kerry and Donegal will believe. I expect Dublin know this.


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