'Being cynical isn't in our DNA' - O'Connor
Jack O'Connor has acknowledged that the Kerry dressing-room will be a changed place in 2012, with retirements on the horizon.
Tommy Griffin and Eoin Brosnan are expected to lead the way in calling time on their inter-county careers, with Tom O'Sullivan potentially hanging up his boots too.
Brosnan came out of retirement in February after a good club run and was reinvented as a half-back, but it looks like it's a short-term arrangement.
Griffin battled injuries all year and didn't feature on a championship team.
O'Sullivan left it until the last minute to return this season -- only coming back ahead of the early March deadline that is usually set by O'Connor. With 12 hard seasons of inter-county football behind him, he may feel that the time is right to go.
However, Tomas O Se has already committed to playing on, while Aidan O'Mahony acknowledged that he too may be tempted into letting his inter-county career run into a ninth season.
With two years of a three-year term left to run, O'Connor is expected to stay at the helm and he may be helped by the return of David Moran -- after a cruciate ligament injury -- and the possible return of Tommy Walsh from the AFL.
Kerry sources are not ruling out the possibility of Walsh ending his involvement with St Kilda, where he has struggled to make an impact.
"There is no question that some players will reconsider their futures now, because they have a lot of mileage on the clock and the demands that are made on physical fitness nowadays -- as you saw by the Dubs -- is almost frightening. There are other things in life than football and a few players will probably reconsider all right, but we will see," O'Connor said.
"These lads have given so much enjoyment. They were supposed to be finished after last year's loss (against Down) and yet they came back with all guns blazing this year. And when you look at their record, they played something like 15 games, won 12 and lost three by a single point so, in any man's language, that's a great record. But we lost the big one and that's devastating.
"They put their lives on hold for eight or nine months and dedicated themselves to the cause. Some of them have given 10 or 11 years of their lives to Kerry football so the Kerry public should be very grateful to these lads for what they have achieved."
O'Connor refused to be drawn on the refereeing performance of Joe McQuillan, which has been a source of frustration in the Kingdom since Sunday.
Questions have arisen over the amount of added time McQuillan allowed -- two minutes -- which O'Mahony acknowledged should have been more because it took goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton some 50 seconds to make his way up and take the kick.
The free against Brosnan for supposedly handling on the ground when clearly he knocked the ball away with his foot is a source of contention, as is the free that led to Cluxton's winning point, where Barry John Keane was penalised for having brought down Kevin McManamon. Two other frees in the first half for supposed fouls on Ger Brennan and Barry Cahill, which Bernard Brogan converted, have also come under the microscope.
"I am very much between a rock and hard place when talking about the referee because if you give out about referees, you are called a whinger," admitted O'Connor, who has been gracious in defeat.
"The only general comment I will make is that it appeared to us that it was much harder for our fellows to get frees than some of the Dublin lads. The likes of Declan and Darran O'Sullivan encountered a lot of abuse going through when they were attacking and they found it hard to get frees.
"There were a few obvious ones in particular, the free the referee gave for Eoin Brosnan handling on the ground that led to their equaliser -- that was obviously a mistake. So what can I say? Maybe Dublin's name was on the cup and we did not get the couple of breaks we needed to win it."
O'Connor ventured that if Kerry were cynical enough, McManamon would have been brought down in the move that led to his goal. But Declan O'Sullivan was stretched to close down the space on him.
"Maybe if we were a cynical team we would have pulled McManamon down on the way through, but I suppose that is not in our DNA," he said.
The manager also defended the decision to take off Kieran O'Leary to get Paul Galvin involved quickly.
"You can always second guess something afterwards. We felt that the way the game was panning out that it did not suit Kieran O'Leary. On a tough greasy surface it was just not his type of game.
"Kieran is a great man to come out and win ball in pockets and supply the other inside forwards, but it wasn't that type of game. It was a dogfight and that's the way Dublin wanted it. I thought we did well and I won't be pointing fingers at any players."
O'Mahony hopes that O'Connor commits to remaining on as Kerry manager despite the defeat.
"Jack's record speaks for itself. From a Kerry point of view and the players' point of view, you'd hope he stays on. He has an unbelievable record. He's a great man manager," said O'Mahony.
For Kerry, it is not a time to panic given how close they were to closing out the game on Sunday.
Despite some setbacks at underage level in recent years -- defeat to Tipperary and a mauling by Cork in successive U-21 campaigns -- there is still a steady trickle of talent coming through. Shane Enright might have been introduced to offset the pace of McManamon in the second half, while Peter Crowley's Sigerson Cup form earlier in the year did not manifest on the bigger stage all summer.
Dr Crokes' Johnny Buckley was reportedly the form Kerry player at training over the last four weeks and that augurs well for him in 2012.