By John Harrington
Dealing with the mental pressure of playing an All-Ireland Final is as taxing for most players as the physical demands of the occasion.
But that’s unlikely to be the case for most of the Dublin players because they are now so used to the biggest day in the Gaelic Football calendar.
According to defender Darren Daly, to them it feels no different to any other game at this stage.
“A lot of things, a lot of the panel have been in a few finals now and you know, individually, what you have to do to prepare for it, which helps,” he said.
“In the camp at the moment, if you are around it, it is just another game for us. There is no major hype, but lads are certainly excited and looking forward to it.”
A lot has been said and written about the athleticism and skill of this Dublin team, but their mental strength is just as vital an asset.
The manner in which they chased Kerry down in the second-half of the All-Ireland semi-final and kicked for home in the closing minutes typified their resolve.
“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, thank God,” says Daly.
It says a lot about the Dublin players that there was no panic in the dressing-room at half-time despite suffering a disastrous few minutes before the break that saw them concede 2-2.
“I have been asked this a few times, it was the same as any other time, whether we were five points up or five points down. Very calm, controlled, follow the same pattern at half-time no matter what position we are in. We didn't make a change, it was controlled, just chipped away and thank God, we came out the right end.
“They got a good purple patch but deep down, I believed that if we re-grouped and got back out here, the quality in this team have full capability of coming back and winning this game, no doubt. After the game, speaking to all the lads, everyone thought that. Maybe in previous years, that mightn't have happened.
“It just comes from experience. Even from my own career, I know the first few days, you are like rabbit in the headlights, the more times you play, you get used to it and you know what you need to do that day to be at your best. You are not always at your best, but you know the things to do to get that ultimate performance.
This group of Dublin players have already marked themselves out as something special by winning the 2011, 2013, and 2015 All-Ireland Finals, but they arguably look a better team this year than ever before.
“I don't know, it is still a bit early to say that,” says Daly. “We are always trying to improve, there is no doubt about that. We look at every game and pick learnings from it, work on them on the training field.
“Basic fundamental skills, but we wouldn't let them go. We would work on them, always trying to improve. I don't know. I would say we are always getting a bit better, we are trying to do that anyway.
“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.”