As part of our GAA Embedded coverage, each week we will profile a player in action over the coming weekend. This week, it's Philly McMahon, whose Dublin side face Mayo on Saturday in the All-Ireland football semi-final.
Philly McMahon would not call his role with Dublin this year a struggle or a challenge. It's just different. In Dublin's three championship games this season, he has not played a minute.
The defender was on the bench against Wexford but did not feature; he was named to start against Meath but was replaced before throw-in; and, in the Leinster final against Kildare, he was on the bench but didn't see any action.
Now 33, McMahon has seen other Dublin players go through this phase of their inter-county career. He's studied their approach and taken lessons from them.
Sitting on the bench has provided McMahon with a new perspective on the championship as he watches how teams set up and how certain players operate.
"What I've come to realise is that there's only so much you can control at a certain point of your career," he says.
"Physiologically your body changes but ultimately the mind gets a bit sharper and the other side of it is, something that you love so much is getting taken away from you as you get older because you’re getting close to retirement so your hunger increases massively.
"You get hungrier to get into better shape and, again, there’s only so fit you can get at a certain age but all those little things, you get after your mindset, you get after your nutrition, your recovery, they kind of heighten a lot more.
"Maybe it’s because you took it for granted when you were a little bit younger, but certainly you get a bit hungrier. What I struggle with is I love a challenge, so I’ve always seen benefits from negative events in my life. I’ve always seen opportunities. I’m a strong believer that from pain and suffering, there will eventually be opportunities.
"For me, it’s difficult for me to say, ‘Ah well Philly, when you didn’t make that run or you made a mistake, it must be because of your age’. I don’t buy that. It’s because obviously you didn’t do something in training that week to help you.
"Everybody that speaks to you, it’s 'retirement, you’re going to finish, what’s going on?' all that stuff, that’s something that you have to try to, not block out, but process it and use it.
"I’d say a lot of players in their careers got to a point where people spoke about retirement so much that it actually finished their career quicker and they could have played on."
5 August 2021; Philly McMahon of Dublin during the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Launch at Charlestown in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
McMahon says talk of Dublin not being favourites for the championship for the first time in many years has fallen on deaf ears in the panel, as has conjecture that Stephen Cluxton's absence will hurt their chances.
"Sure look, everyone wants to take you down," says the eight-time All-Ireland winner.
"You know that saying, 'No man steps in the same river...' [Mayo are] ever-evolving. We’re ever-evolving. It’s not the same team year-in, year-out. It’s not the same team week-in, week-out.
"But for me, I’ve played in front of Stephen for a long time. I’ve played in front of Evan Comerford for a long time....
"It’s like the narrative of, 'Do Dublin struggle under a high ball?' And then, we don’t. Or, 'Will Dublin struggle without Stephen Cluxton?' I haven’t seen that.
"So you can get after those things. You can see them as opportunities. But it’s certainly something we haven’t seen. And for me, they’re challenges you want. You want every team trying to expose weaknesses you have, so you can get better at them.
"I’ve no doubt that Mayo will do everything they can to try and outperform us and get the result.
"And so will we. But you’ve just got to be ready. For me, if I’m employed for two minutes to do a job on a tall fella, a small fella – whatever it may be – that’s what you’ve got to do for the greater cause.
"For me, it’s things I’ve seen over the years that players have done, that they’ve done a lot of things that people won’t see behind the scenes at the training ground. Or it could be two minutes at the end of the game.
"If that happens for me, I’ll be there. I’ll be ready. If it doesn’t, I’m hoping that whatever energy I’ve given to the group outside of that has been enough."
Every Monday afternoon, GAA Embedded will be live on our social channels with former Kerry footballer Darran O'Sullivan and former Tipperary hurler Shane McGrath.