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c'ship 2020 This All-Ireland has to be easier to win for Dublin footballers than the five-in-a-row

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 Dublin players celebrate their five-in-a-row victory over Kerry at Croke Park

Dublin players celebrate their five-in-a-row victory over Kerry at Croke Park

Dublin players celebrate their five-in-a-row victory over Kerry at Croke Park

'I've started - so I'll finish' was quizmaster Magnus Magnusson's famous catchphrase when he presented Mastermind on the telly all those years ago.

The GAA started the 2020 All-Ireland championships at the weekend, but only a mastermind could tell us if they will get a chance to finish it all.

We're starting a series of matches all across the country at a time when we are not supposed to go into our neighbours' house for a cup of tea, or to have a can of beer with that neighbour while watching a big game on TV.

It all makes no sense to me. My choice would have been to leave a gap on the GAA's Rolls of Honour for 2020 as a memorial to the 1,800 Irish citizens who have died because of this virus.

For now we are starting and, in theory, this All-Ireland has to be easier to win for Dublin footballers than the one that saw the historic five-in-a-row completed.

They've only to play five games instead of the nine needed last year - and with the strongest squad in the business, even after the loss of Jack McCaffrey, Diarmuid Connolly and Bernard Brogan, they can shrug off injuries better than most and cope with the demanding schedule better than most.

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Kerry manager Peter Keane and new Dublin boss Dessie Farrell

Kerry manager Peter Keane and new Dublin boss Dessie Farrell

Kerry manager Peter Keane and new Dublin boss Dessie Farrell

And top players are going to miss matches in a rat-a-tat season, where teams will play week after week.

While Dublin might be able to go into battle without a big player, how would their counties fair if David Clifford, Michael Murphy, Lee Keegan or Mattie Donnelly were to get badly hurt and be out for six weeks - the six weeks it will take to complete the All-Ireland.

You don't wish that fate on anyone, we want the best players playing.

But in this format of playing Sunday after Sunday, the county with the strongest squad has a huge advantage and that remains Dublin.

For all that, new manager Dessie Farrell is on a hiding to nothing in this crazy year.

Lead the team to an incredible sixth successive All-Ireland and it will be "ah, sure he only kept things ticking over".

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If the Dubs lose a Championship match for the first time since August 2014, it will be "he's no Jim Gavin".

As a long-time Dublin minor and Under-20 boss, Dessie is well versed in inter-county football.

But this winter championship is just as new to old hands Mickey Harte (Tyrone), James Horan (Mayo) and all the other managers who have been operating for years at senior level. Dublin's new man has got a break there.

Dessie will put his own stamp on things. The retirements have given him the chance to bring in a few new players who will be hungry for places.

Remember Dublin were in last year's All-Ireland Under-20 Final and would have played in yesterday's 2020 decider in that grade had it gone ahead.

There are young players there who have grown up going to Croker every summer and watching these giants in Sky Blue win All-Irelands.

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Kerry will be hugely reliant on David Clifford

Kerry will be hugely reliant on David Clifford

Kerry will be hugely reliant on David Clifford

Now they get the chance to train with them and play with them - they are not going to let the opportunity slip by.

And yet, they are going to have to work very hard. Of the team that beat Kerry in last year's replayed Final, ten were aged 26 or younger on that day.

They've now had a refreshing summer to get ready to go again and it was notable in the County Championship in August and September that the Dublin players stood out.

Ballymun, with half a dozen Dubs aboard, won it all. And Raheny, with the Brians - Fenton and Howard - in great form had their best season for a long time.

So the players are ready to go, and there will be no let up.

Can they be beaten? Of course they can, there is no such thing as an unbeatable sports team.

Will they lose in Leinster? I can't see that happening at all. Dublin ought to beat Westmeath on Saturday week and then probably Laois in the semi-final.

I'd expect Meath or Kildare to contest the Leinster Final against Dublin and after that one it would be a match against the Ulster champions - with that the trickiest province to call.

I'd expect the winner of the titanic Donegal-Tyrone quarter-final and either Monaghan or Down to play in the northern decider.

Monaghan have a history of strong League performances against Dublin in recent years - they could be a banana skin at that stage.

I expect Kerry and Mayo to win the other provinces, with Kerry reaching the All-Ireland Final. And then it will be a case of 'Last Man Standing'.

Will the GAA get lucky with the winter weather? I just hope that no game in this year's competition is played in the dreadful wet conditions that occurred in Clones in the infamous Ulster Final of 1993, when Derry dethroned All-Ireland Champions Donegal.

That game was played because it was a showpiece day in the north, when the new stand in Clones was opened.

It should not have gone ahead, the pitch was unplayable in the heavy rain.

I hope nothing similar happens this year. Our amateur players do not deserve to be put in that position.

The county with the strongest squad has a big advantage and that's still the Dubs


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