'Diligence' of Cluxton sets tone for the rest - Gavin
It says a lot about Stephen Cluxton's influence - and perhaps the state of Leinster football - that his possible absence for Sunday's provincial final meeting with Laois is the only talking point in town.
Since being fired to the Croke Park sod by a dangerous James McGivney tackle in their semi-final defeat of Longford, the possibility of him facing time on the sidelines and the effect which it may have on Dublin has dominated the conversation.
And rightly so. It could be argued that no player has impacted the game more than the five-time All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper and the prospect of his 14 consecutive years of championship duty being broken overshadows the decider.
While the 36-year-old is likely to be ruled out for the weekend with suspected rib damage, Dublin boss Jim Gavin was remaining coy on the prospect of being without his skipper and outlined that he has since taken part in training with the squad.
"He's been out with us, yeah. Stephen is a tough guy, mentally very strong, determined, so we'll just have to see over the coming days how he progresses. I'll leave all those assessments to the medical team and the player. Ultimately, it's a player's call, to say whether he's available for selection," Gavin said yesterday.
"He's been consistently there and that's a testament to his determination, he's a great passion for it and that's very apparent when you're around him, each time you train with the team, he's a great leader. We'll give him every chance and see how it is."
Evan Comerford - who replaced him in the first half against Longford - will deputise in his absence with Gavin explaining that Cluxton's presence has helped to play a huge role in his development, as well as many of the other all-conquering Dubs.
"It's his leadership instincts. And leadership is all about setting an example and influencing players around you. Stephen is normally the first at training, he's normally the last off the pitch. That work ethic that Stephen has and his diligence to his craft of goalkeeping," Gavin said.
"The other players see it every time we train together, his dedication, determination and above all his application to keep learning. He's achieved an awful lot in the past, but he's relentless in trying to be his best. That's what's most impressive about him.
"You want your leader to, first of all, set the example for the team and Stephen does that on a consistent basis. That consistency is what has made him the player that he is. What better example can you give to players than that."
While Cluxton may miss out, John Small and Davy Byrne are both coming back into contention while Jack McCaffrey and Cian O'Sullivan have also made returns from long-term injuries.
McCaffrey limped out of last year's All-Ireland final with a cruciate knee ligament injury, yet inside nine months he was back against Longford and the 2015 Footballer of the Year looked to have lost none of his spark.
"I don't think Jack is conventional. He is his own man. And it is great to see, we encourage that. Jack decided when he was ready, pretty much," the four-time All-Ireland-winning manager said.
"We saw the last day he has lost none of his pace, his agility, his ball-handling, his link, his game intelligence, his game awareness. Again, off in the shadows away from the pitch, he has worked really, really hard so I have to give him that credit."
This time 12 months ago Gavin fumed at the condition of the sod at GAA HQ following their Leinster final victory over Kildare in the wake of Coldplay's Croke Park performance and he anticipates similar problems this weekend after Taylor Swift's recent concert dates at the Jones' Road venue.
He doesn't feel the GAA are covering themselves in glory, or doing their ground staff any favours, by allowing such events to interfere with the GAA calendar - the Ring, Rackard and Meagher finals will be played there on Saturday - although his players have never blamed the surface.
"They've never said it to me. Not once. But obviously we were looking in at other games that were played. The traction sometimes isn't what it should be on a wet day so hopefully it doesn't rain.
"The administration doesn't help them (ground staff) by putting them in that situation in trying to turn that pitch around in six days."
While name-checking several Laois players and complimenting their progress under John Sugrue, it's clear that their eye won't be taken off the ball as they chase their eighth Leinster crown in a row and their domination hasn't decreased its value to them. "It's still very much a competition that we want to win so we place great stock on it."