Credit deficit for 2017 exploits may have gotten under Dubs' skin - Ciarán Whelan
Ciarán Whelan can't see the same vulnerability that others, notably the Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, have identified in All-Ireland champions Dublin as they begin their quest for a fourth successive All-Ireland title this weekend against Wicklow in Portlaoise.
Dublin are expected to cruise through Leinster and pick up an eighth consecutive provincial title over the next six weeks and beyond that, the former midfielder doesn't see any of the potential threats progressing quick enough to take them down. As for apparent vulnerability, Whelan can't see "any justification for that."
Speaking at RTé's championship coverage launch he said it was too early to assess the potential impacts that absentees will have on Dublin.
"If you're calling vulnerability on the back of a league performance, you could say everybody is vulnerable. I don't see where the substance is coming to make that judgement. You look at Mayo, poor league. Tyrone were poor at the start of the league, Kerry still haven't got a solid back six, Monaghan are always a good league team but tend to struggle in the championship," noted Whelan.
"Playing league football in February and March and making a judgement around vulnerability, in my opinion, is a little bit early.
"Yes, Bernard Brogan is gone. He's going to be a loss but he wasn't starting in the team last year. Diarmuid Connolly is gone, no doubt he's going to be a significant loss if he doesn't return.
"There's not as much depth in defence as they have in the forward line and, for me, their key players are Cluxton, Fenton, Kilkenny, Mannion, O'Callaghan. It's nearly a new breed they're reliant on now to perform. For a few years ago it was Paul Flynn, Bernard Brogan, Kevin McManamon, Michael Darragh Macauley. They've evolved and changed so I'm struggling to see where they're vulnerable at this present time but we'll find out during the summer."
Nor does Whelan feel that hunger will be an issue with any such vulnerability on that front possibly exposed in 2012 and 2014.
And he envisages motivation being drawn from a perceived lack of credit for the team's achievements in the aftermath of last year's three-in-a-row.
"I've said it publicly, I'd say they were a little bit p***ed off they didn't get the recognition after doing three-in-a-row last year and I think they may be utilising that in a way to drive them forward.
"When they did three in a row, the night of the final (talk) was more about splitting Dublin in two and the manner in which they won. There was various stuff thrown at them post-All-Ireland.
"I'm only surmising that might have got under their skin a bit and they said, 'Right, let's go out and deliver four in a row. I think that translates into their league form and they've kept themselves in peak condition and they want to do it."
Whelan has acknowledged the influence of his own Raheny club-mate Brian Fenton who has still to lose a championship game.
"I go back to the first game he played against Monaghan on his full debut and he just kept things so simple. He does things in a simple way, in a very quick and effective way. Last year his fielding improved, now he's adding scoring to his repertoire. He's getting forward, drifting into positions and he's very accurate in front of goal.
"He's still getting better. He's only 24 which is quite frightening. He's hugely important to Dublin now. If Fenton picks up an injury, he's going to be very difficult to replace."