Pat Spillane looks at the Kerry football team this year and sees a few differences from seasons past, especially from last year when their championship ended abruptly with defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final.
"One is their fitness," said Spillane at the launch of PwC's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All-Stars.
"Jason McGahan, the strength and conditioning coach, said it would be three years before you'd see the result of his work. I swear to God, this is the fittest [I've seen Kerry].
"I look at my nephews, Killian and Adrian (Spillane), they've bulked up, they've got stronger. Individually, these lads have put in serious work. Their fitness is good. Their strength and conditioning is very good - that's number two.
"Number three, they're picking forwards as forwards! They're picking six forwards as six forwards. They're not converting Gavin White into a wing-forward or Brian Ó Beaglaoich.
"Mike Breen, Diarmuid O'Connor, Adrian Spillane - in the middle third of the field, they are bringing what Kerry need to match the Dubs. They're bringing physicality and athleticism. They're middle-distance runners with big engines and they're strong guys.
"Seanie O'Shea is a better footballer this year. He's stronger. David Clifford is a better footballer this year.
"Dara Moynihan has been a revelation. He's Kerry's most improved forward. He works hard and shows for the ball. He's playing direct and going at defences. So is Stephen O'Brien."
Kerry Footballer Pat Spillane in attendance at the launch of PwC's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All-Stars at Croke Park in Dublin. Ireland's most prestigious sports awards were first presented in 1971. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
In the most meaningful game of their league campaign this season, Kerry found themselves trailing by seven points to Dublin but came back to snatch a late draw. Spillane saw glimmers of hope in the second half that suggest Kerry might this year topple the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.
"What I saw that day was Kerry taking the fight to the Dubs," said Spillane.
"Kerry were playing the game on the edge; Kerry were getting under Dubs' skin. Very few teams go at the Dubs, most teams sit back. That 20 or 25 minutes, they went at the Dubs, annoyed them, harassed them and hassled. They put pressure on the kickout.
"They did something similar two years ago down in Tralee on a Saturday night when they tore at them. When you do that to the Dubs, they're vulnerable.
"I can only find two contenders for the All-Ireland: It's Kerry and Dublin."
Picture credits: Sportsfile