'Gap to top not all about money' - Eamonn Fitzmaurice
The All-Ireland football semi-finals are being contested by the same four counties that the vast majority would have identified from the outset but, despite the big cumulative winning margins in all the quarter-finals, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice feels the gap between that quartet and the rest is nowhere near as pronounced as it seems.
And he is adamant that money is not the main difference in creating any division that exists.
"The quarter-finals threw up big wins but I don't think the margins are as big as people think they are," he insisted.
"Last year you had Tipperary as one of the last four. I know, at the start of this year, people predicted the top four - most people would have predicted that. But you wouldn't have predicted a lot of the other things that went on in the championship.
"You wouldn't have predicted Down beating Monaghan. Armagh beating Kildare. Maybe people would have given Galway a chance of beating Mayo in Salthill but they'd have said they'd learn from the year before.
"There are always plenty of talking points. I don't know what more people want really."
Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone contesting semi-finals has become a recurring theme as they have now featured in three of the last five together.
The onus, says Fitzmaurice, is on the rest to mobilise properly.
"I do think if you're behind it's up to you to catch up. We're behind Dublin. We're trying to catch up to them. The onus is on the other counties to try and catch up, be it structures-wise, be it with the way their team is playing, be it with their conditioning - you can do an awful lot.
"Everyone thinks it's all money and it has to be money and it's not. I think you can do a lot without that if you get the proper environment, proper people, proper training, you can achieve a lot.
"Money helps. Absolutely it helps of course when you have the finance to put the things in place that you want to. That's a huge debate - we could be here for the night. How is the finance being spent?" he asked ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo.
"Is it being spent on managers, management teams, backroom gurus? Or is it being spent on things to help the players. There is plenty of money being spent in every county.
"I don't accept that argument. Dublin have used their resources in a brilliant manner for the last 10 years and more and are reaping the rewards."
The birth of his first child has compressed some of the time that Fitzmaurice has been able to devote to Kerry football over the last four years, especially the work of video analysis which he still takes a 'hands-on' approach to when working with Paudie McCarthy and Pat Duffy.
"It gives you perspective," he said. "It gives you less time so you are more efficient is a better way of putting it. It's healthier, particularly in the summer time - and I've said that in the past I could disappear down a hole for three or four days. I'd just be completely zoomed in on the opposition or zoomed in on ourselves. There wouldn't be a whole lot else going on. Particularly when Tina was working, her working equalled me being able to do whatever I wanted with football. When you've a baby then it's different. You've to put time into that, you want to put time into that, it just means you are a bit more grounded."
Fitzmaurice admitted coming away from their win over Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final "disappointed" despite an eight-point margin in their favour.
"We all were expecting a bigger performance and there was plenty there to be getting our teeth stuck into over the last couple of weeks but you have to stand back and say we won the game by eight points and the performance on the day was enough to beat Galway in an All-Ireland quarter-final but it'd be a long way short of what we need on Sunday."
One man who didn't disappoint was Kieran Donaghy but Fitzmaurice feels the link between a winter playing basketball and his current form is overplayed.
"I'd say he had in his head last year to retire but I said it to him early in the summer around the time of the Munster final, 'There's more in you, keep going, you'll be gone for long enough'.
"And he thought about it I'd say and he'd a bit of thinking to do. I think particularly with his book coming out he probably saw that as being a kind of a natural end. But he went away and he enjoyed his basketball for the winter, it kept him in good shape and he came back into us and he's been like a breath of fresh air," he said.
"He gives you something that not too many other players anywhere can give you so that's why it's great to have him around the place. Then when his form is as it is you can't ignore him, simple as that."
Fitzmaurice feels Mayo are making their move just at the right time similar to last year's pathway. "If you look at their form line last year it was somewhat similar. After losing in the Connacht Championship it took them a while to get going again.
"They were sleepwalking through games really and when they got to Croke Park they got better and obviously for the two All-Ireland finals (draw and replay), they played very well and were unlucky not to win the All-Ireland last year. So they seem to be something similar now, they're after hitting their form at the right time."
Subscribe to The Throw-In, Independent.ie's weekly Championship podcast, for the best in GAA discussion and analysis every Monday, with some of the biggest names in football and hurling from Joe Brolly, Tomás Ó'Sé, Brendan Cummins and John Mullane.