Kilkenny: 'There's loads of areas we can improve on'
It's a more straightforward build-up to the All-Ireland final this time around for Ciarán Kilkenny.
In the build-up to last year's final, the Castleknock man headed north west to Donegal to spend some time in the Gaeltacht as part of his teacher training. It was just a week before the game and it wasn't ideal but he made it work.
"I went back (to Dublin) for one session and I just did my gym session in Gaoth Dobhair so it was alright," he recalls.
There's been no such distraction this time around but there is the appreciation of the passing of time. At 24, he's not amongst the old guard in the dressing room but he's not over with the kids either.
This is Kilkenny's sixth season with Dublin since he turned his back on the AFL having first been called up by Pat Gilroy in a bid to reinvigorate the squad that won the All-Ireland in 2011.
His full debut came in the defeat to Mayo back in 2012 and incredibly that remains the only championship defeat that he has been active for in his entire career.
A year later he picked up his first Celtic Cross as Dublin saw off Mayo. He'd miss the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal due to a cruciate injury. Since his return, he's known nothing but winning in the championship.
"The way I look at it, a new group comes in at the start of every year," Kilkenny says.
"This year, 2017, has been a new journey for us, there has been different players involved, different people in management set-ups. It is a new journey. This is a new year for me, this is another All-Ireland final, that is the way I look at it, anyway.
"Anything can happen around the corner. You can only look straight ahead, you can only take one step at a time, you don't know what is around the corner. Like I said, you have to appreciate the time you do have playing. It is a limited time, it is a limited opportunity.
"Like 2012 was my first year, 2013, I was lucky enough to be involved with a Dublin team that won the All-Ireland, the year after that I did my cruciate. You don't know what is around the corner."
It's Mayo again on Sunday. They are familiar foes and Kilkenny isn't surprised that Mayo have come back to have another crack at ending their winning run in the championship.
And he warns that supporters should expect there to be little in the game by the time Joe McQuillan brings the curtain down on Sunday afternoon.
"I suppose ourselves and Mayo, there has only been a hop of the ball between us the last few years. In 2015, 2016, there actually wasn't, we drew both games and the next day, there was a hop of the ball between the two teams," he reasons.
"We know the challenge that is ahead of us, they are a great team, very physical team, great tackling team.
"They have so many different styles of playing, great runners coming from deep, they have great mental resilience and they have played nine games coming into this game.
"We know it is a massive challenge and there won't be much between both teams."
And despite their impressive win over Tyrone, Kilkenny warns there is room for even more improvement in this Dublin side as they look to complete their three-in-a-row.
"I know we put in a very good performance the last day but there's loads of areas we can improve on in terms of turnovers and stuff," he says.
"There's loads of places to improve on. Even looking at the final last year, we had loads of areas to improve on. I know the conditions were bad but we still had areas to improve on.
"What you can really aim to and aspire to is performing as best as you can.
"That's what we're really looking forward to, that's why listening to Dec (Darcy) there, there's that buzz there to get into the position for that good performance."
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