Among the most startling virtues of this current Dublin team is their nigh-pathological aversion to complacency. Hanging in the dressing room ahead of last year's All-Ireland final against Mayo, for example, was a banner reading "Success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it".
If the Dublin players don't think about their success, they do occasionally stew on their (by now exceptionally rare) defeats. This is general throughout the set-up, and the evolution in their style of play in the last couple of years is widely regarded as a response to the 2014 defeat to Donegal, still Jim Gavin's only championship defeat as a manager.
Individually, the players are motivated by the relatively few defeat they have had in their playing careers. Consider this post-All-Ireland final line from Jack McCaffrey, given to the Irish Times.
It’s funny, we’re sitting here after winning an All-Ireland, and when you look back on your achievements to date, it’s kind of the losses that stick out a little bit. That loss to Tipperary in 2011.
Losing to Longford in the U-21s in 2013. Losing to Donegal in 2014, then a Freshers All-Ireland final we lost to DCU with UCD. Maybe it’s something about the nature of athletes, always something you have in the back of your mind.
Ciaran Kilkenny is no different. Speaking to Balls at an event to promote Sure as the official statistics partner of the GAA, Kilkenny remembered the atmosphere in the dressing room after that defeat to Tipperary in the All-Ireland minor final of 2011.
I always remember after the football final seeing Jack in the dressing-rooms saying, 'We're really hurting now, but let this drive us on to be back here again and hopefully be contesting for titles.
It was a special moment and a moment that's clear in my mind, back seven years ago when we were in that dressing-room having lost that All-Ireland final. Fortunately, the next year we won an Under 21 All-Ireland and then won a senior All-Ireland.
But it's times like that you remember how it feels and it really motivates you.
That was an important moment in our careers.
The Player of the Year nominee also remembers that under-21 defeat to Longford two years later. Dublin were the reigning Leinster champions at that level, but were shocked in a quarter-final in Parnell Park against the Midlanders, losing 1-6 to 1-5. Kilkenny missed a late free to draw the game, and today revealed his startling reaction to the disappointment.
I was so annoyed that night that I ended up cycling to my granny's house in Portlaoise.
I was so frustrated about the game that I needed to burn off the energy. [It took] two or three hours I'd say. It was late enough. She was just thankful I was alive! Look, I'm a very competitive individual. I was very upset about the loss so I ended up cycling. My glutes were in bits for a couple of days.
I just thought 'I need to do this. This will drive me on and make me a better player'. Lucky enough, she was still awake. I knocked on the window and she opened it up.
I was a bit sore the next day so I ended up hopping on the train with the bike with the granny, on the free travel!
Dublin have a lot going for them, but their will to win and hatred of defeat is evidently as intractable as anybody else's.
Ciaran Kilkenny was speaking to Balls to promote Sure as the official statistics partner of the GAA.