"There's an ominous silence coming out of Kerry." So proclaimed Jack McCaffrey this week, speaking to Anthony Moyles on the Balls.ie 'Hard Shoulder' podcast. And so he might make such a point. McCaffrey may not be playing for Dublin this year, but his blood still runs blue and his heart beats to the rhythm of the Dublin drum.
McCaffrey might be too honest-or simply not cute enough-to make such suggestions tactically, as a way of easing pressure away from his team-mates ahead of their huge All-Ireland semi-final against the Kingdom this Sunday. But whatever his intention, you can't deny there's a bit of truth in his words.
Dublin have been carried along on the wind all summer, seemingly indestructible, apparently invincible. But all breeze drops, even for a moment. Kerry come to Croke Park on Sunday surrounded by a silence that should scream at Dublin, after a run to the All-Ireland semi-final so incredibly easy that it has provoked cries of disdain towards the Championship structure. And that's what makes them so dangerous.
Kerry beat Clare with the bored dutifulness of a teenager tidying his room and won Munster at a trot but they'll gallop into Croke Park having watched how Donegal pegged Dublin back in the All-Ireland quarter-final and taken note. Donegal hit eight first half wides and made crucial unforced errors in that period that allowed Dublin to go in five points up at half-time, a lead they maintained until the end. Granted, Dublin had Diarmuid Connolly sent off right at the crest of Donegal's second half wave, but Donegal lacked the accuracy and power they had in 2012 that would have allowed them to push on. Donegal fans screamed with the frustration of supporters who knew their side had Dublin on the ropes but no longer possessed the strength to deliver a knockout blow.
It is true that Kerry have breezed into August with barely a scratch. A possible counter would be that Dublin have yawned their way through Leinster and stumbled slightly past an aging Donegal side many of whom are into the slippers-and-pipe stage of their brilliant inter-county careers.
That game against Donegal is perhaps the only real indicator we have of how the game might go on Sunday. Dublin may have comprehensively beaten Kerry in the League final but we know that Kerrymen view the League as certain golfers might view the Olympics. In 2014 the Kingdom put a shocking League campaign behind them to win an All-Ireland they had entered bearing as strong a 'rank outsider' status as they are now.
Dublin may be making all the right noises about craving back-to-back All-Irelands this year. But they were also doing that in 2014 before Donegal took their scalp in the quarter-finals. Conversations before that game revolved around the same topics as have arisen this week-Dublin's strength in depth, their resources, their opponents being at the end of their tether. And look what happened then.
@moylesiea I just can't see Donegal (or anyone) living with Dublin, though I think the sport badly needs them to.
— David Sheehan (@DavidSSport) August 30, 2014
There is no question that Dublin appear to (somehow) have kicked on this year and are perhaps bordering on an unprecedented era of dominance in Gaelic football (if they aren't already in the middle of one, with three All-Ireland titles in five years). But David Moran hasn't suddenly stopped being a mercurially brilliant midfielder. Darran O'Sullivan and James O'Donoghue haven't lost their pace or accuracy; the Kerry half-back line remains one of the best in the country. The question is whether or not Kerry have the strength in depth to stay with Dublin until the dying minutes; whether physically they can match Dublin's ferocious pace.
But still. It's Dublin vs Kerry in Croke Park in August, which means there's something in the air. The tantalising prospect of thousands descending on the capital from a county you daren't dismiss. A county that love nothing more than being ruled out; a county that thrive on being under-sold, dismissed, looked beyond. A county that produced Colm Cooper and Kieran Donaghy and who will call on them on Sunday for one last push. One last act.
Kerry approach Croke Park with the silent fortitude of a born killer.
Don't dismiss an assassin. At least not until you slit his throat.