So the week has begun, Dublin and Mayo fans are now counting down those final few days before their two teams meet in what will be the most watched game of the year.
You can start to feel the atmosphere building, even if it appears slower than recent years. That level of expectation is still there. But there have been many questions asked of this Dublin team and their recent success. And asked consistently throughout this Championship.
Does it still mean as much to them? Do they still want it? Is the hunger still there to want to lift yet another All Ireland Title? From an outside perspective who wouldn’t have that hunger?
But for every year, every championship, every game, an angle needs to be be spun. Darren Daly doesn’t believe the want and the hunger is any less concentrated than any other year.
With Leinster cleanly folded and tucked into the kit bag, focus turned to the All Ireland Series and what everyone wanted, particularly the Dublin panel themselves, was a test, one that would take more effort to bear fruit. And most people agree that while Dublin advanced, it was certainly not the cake walk a lot expected.
But what has shone through, in both the Quarter Final against Donegal, and the Semi Final against Kerry, is that there is even more of a resilience and certainly more confidence than there ever has been among this group.
“It just comes from experience.” Daly told DublinGAA.ie.
“Sometimes, you are not always at your best, but you know the things to do to get that ultimate performance.”
Donegal didn’t come to Croke Park at the beginning of August to play football, as some hoped. They came attempting to break down Dublin’s signature attack, and failed. Yes, there were times Dublin would have been reminded of their own mortality, but the Donegal comeback never materialised.
Then two weeks ago, with most believing this would be the ultimate test, Kerry arrived in town hoping to be the men to beat the men. Again, despite taking a five-point deficit down the tunnel at the break and again being three-points down coming into the last ten minuted of the game, this Dublin side showed the amazing character to just keep calm and do what they’ve tirelessly trained to do.
Darren described the dressing room at the half time juncture against the kingdom as no different to any other occasion.
“It was the same as any other time, whether we were five points up or five points down,” he admitted
“Very calm, controlled, follow the same pattern at half-time no matter what position we are in.”
What happened before the break could ultimately have unravelled a Dublin team from the past, and on so many occasion would have seen a team like Kerry in the driving seat for the remainder of the game. All the more reason to acknowledge the overwhelming performance Jim Gavin’s panel put in for the second phase.
“We didn’t make a change,” Daly continued, “it was controlled, just chipped away and thank God, we came out the right end. This group is a special group.
“We are knit, lads just generally work really hard and a few games that were in the melting pot, we gelled well and we dug them out.
And to dispense of any talk of a weakening of their hunger and passion at the thoughts of becoming back to back All Ireland Champions?
“I think I know the appetite is there. There is huge hunger from all the lads. It is great to see when we came under a bit of pressure, that lads did respond, for lads going into the next game.”