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my prediction Why the Dublin footballers have absolutely no chance of winning Sam Maguire

Victory over Farrell's outfit in Tralee was a defining moment for the Kingdom

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Adrian Spillane of Kerry tussles with Seán Bugler of Dublin

Adrian Spillane of Kerry tussles with Seán Bugler of Dublin

Kerry’s Seán O’Shea takes a breather after victory last weekend

Kerry’s Seán O’Shea takes a breather after victory last weekend

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Adrian Spillane of Kerry tussles with Seán Bugler of Dublin

I will begin with a prediction: ­Dublin will not be crowned All-Ireland ­football champions in 2022.

This forecast is not based on what I witnessed in Tralee last weekend.

But what I did see there merely confirmed my view that the Dubs are incapable of halting a slide which I first detected five years ago.

As regular readers know I'm a huge fan of this Dublin team.

I acknowledge they were the greatest county football senior squad of all time.

Mind you, I would still argue that the Kerry side that nearly did the five-in-row was the greatest team of all time. Why? Because there were so few changes in personnel between 1978 and 1982.

In contrast, by the time Dublin won the six-in-row in 2020 only six of their starting 2015 winning-side were first-team regulars.

The famous quote from British politician Enoch Powell that all political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure applies in sport as well.

As they deal with the aftermath of a record defeat on Kerry soil, this Dublin team has two options.

They can follow the mantra adopted by Tyrone after they shipped six goals and lost by 16 points in Killarney on the eve of last year's championship.

Tyrone identified what went wrong that evening, addressed the issues and ended up being crowned All-Ireland champions.

Alternatively, they can simply shrug their shoulders and say they know what went wrong - but come the championship everything will be back to normal.

During my teaching days this was the excuse used by students who did poorly in the mock exams.

Believe me, their results were just as bad in the real exam.

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But the issues facing Dublin are far more fundamental than just a blip in the opening rounds of the league.

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Kerry’s Seán O’Shea takes a breather after victory last weekend

Kerry’s Seán O’Shea takes a breather after victory last weekend

Kerry’s Seán O’Shea takes a breather after victory last weekend

I know exactly what they are going through because I travelled that road myself in the latter days of my Kerry career.

The biggest conundrum facing both an aging sports star and an aging team is when to take the last hurrah.

I still remember Mick O'Dwyer's last season in charge of Kerry in 1989. We went for one last hurrah.

We trained harder than ever before. It was a stupid mistake.

Instead of being flogged the older players should have been kept fresh.

Predictably there was no happy ending to all of this.

Cork beat us handily in Fitzgerald Stadium in the Munster final.

Dublin are on the road that Kerry travelled between the All-Ireland in 1986 and the ­departure of Micko after the 1989 Championship.

They too will discover soon that they have gone to the well once too often.

The qualities that made Dublin great between 2011 and 2020: composure, decision-making, game management and an impactful subs bench have all been absent so far in this league.

Fans will brush it off and say it is only the league.

This is a mistake because winning is a good habit to acquire, since it ­instils confidence in players and sends out a warning message to pretenders.

On the other hand, losing is a bad habit to develop because teams end up in a rut which can prove difficult to escape.

Worse still, it means a team starts to look vulnerable.

This is what has happened to ­Dublin. They have lost their aura of invincibility. Everybody wants a crack at them now.

Over the years nearly all of their opponents were beaten before they took the field.

Nothing will convince me, for example, that either Meath or Kildare truly believed they could beat them in last year's Leinster series.

Though Dublin has talented players coming through the ranks, the key issue is whether their on-field leaders have the appetite to go back into the trenches for the sake of winning yet another All-Ireland medal.

This is what I admired most about their six-in-row achievement.

Unlike professional sport, where more success means more money for the players, in Gaelic football all that is on offer is a medal.

So, when push comes to shove this summer, will players who have All-Ireland medals hanging out of their pockets be prepared to through the pain barrier again just to add another Celtic Cross to their collection?

In case anybody gets the wrong impression I'm not dancing on Dublin's grave. Hell no.

They still have some of the best players that ever graced the game.

But let's be honest here - the amber lights have been flashing for several seasons now. I detected a decline in standards as far back as the 2018 campaign.

An average Tyrone team was ­unable to exploit those weaknesses in the All-Ireland final.

In the drawn All-Ireland final of 2019 Kerry were the better team, but badly fluffed their lines with the finishing line in sight.

Due to Covid-19 the 2020 championship was a bit of an aberration.

Dublin were comfortably able to cover over the cracks against Cavan in the semi-final and against a Mayo side, who surprised themselves by getting that far, in the final. The signs of decline were more obvious last year.

An indifferent performance against Wexford was followed by stuttering efforts against Meath and Kildare, before they finally ran out of road in extra time against Mayo. What has happened so far in the league is merely a continuance of that inexorable decline.

So, I don't see Dublin having one last great hurrah this summer.

What about Kerry?

Last Saturday night was a defining moment for this bunch of Kerry footballers. They had to lay down a marker and beat Dublin.

Kerry last beat Dublin in the Championship in 2009.

They had won only four of their 14 league ties against the Dubs since 2010.

The result was even more ­significant last weekend because this bunch of players had spurned two previous chances to do the ­business against the Dubs. In the 2017 League game in Tralee the home side failed to stop the visitors from equalling Kerry's historic 34-match unbeaten run.

The match ended in a draw.

Worse still, in that 2019 drawn All-Ireland final Kerry had a chance to stop Dublin from achieving the five-in-a-row and blew it.

They simply couldn't fail again - not least because they were close to full strength whereas Dublin were down at least half a dozen first-team regulars.

A pleasing aspect of the performance was the 12-minute, first-half blitz when they scored 1-8 without reply.

This was Kerry football as its best - kick-passing, playing on the front foot and hitting a succession of scores.

At times their defensive play was impressive - they haven't conceded a goal in the League so far. And Tadgh Morley is doing well in the sweeping role.

Most importantly they had the physicality, athleticism and pace in the shape of Diarmuid O'Connor, Jack Barry and Adrian Spillane in the middle third to match the Dubs.

And of course, they have a certain David Clifford. He is unmarkable at times and is definitely the best player in the game at the moment.

I've never seen Kerry fans in such high spirits after a round 2 League game.

Everybody was telling me: "This is going to be our year."

But as George Hook used to say: "Back up that caravan." Let's not get carried away just yet.

In the first quarter, despite having the elements at their back, Kerry didn't show the form of potential All-Ireland winners.

They were opened up all too easily, with Dublin squandering a couple of good goal chances. Speaking of goals, it is noticeable Kerry are not creating or scoring many.

Though they have scored two in the League, strictly speaking they have only created one chance as Killian Spillane's goal against Kildare was a fortuitous effort.

Their second-half performances have been sub-standard as well.

Kerry scored only once against Dublin and managed just 0-3 in Newbridge. Not good enough.

And I would have concerns about the standard of football in the county. Are our footballers as good as we think they are?

Last weekend the Kerry Junior champions Gneeveguilla, who play in Division 1 of the county league, were beaten in the All-Ireland Junior final.

The previous weekend Na Gaeil, who have four Kerry players on their squad and are one of only eight senior clubs in the county, lost to Steelstown from Derry in the All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final.

There's plenty of food for thought in those results.

Still, the signs are promising. But I wouldn't be booking an open top bus for Killarney in late July just yet.

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