Paul Geaney was an important cog in the Kerry forward line when they last won the All-Ireland in 2014.
But the headlines were hogged by James O'Donoghue, who was rewarded with the Footballer of the Year award, and Kieran Donaghy, previously written off as a ghost of All-Ireland's past but whose unexpected re-emergence gave Kerry a shot in the arm at a critical moment in the season.
Two years on, Geaney emerged as the star forward. Kerry typically don't do 'marquee forwards' (dreaded cliche) as they usually boast an ensemble cast of attacking players, any one of whom can steal the show. However, if any Kerry player deserved this tag in 2016, it was Geaney. He was their sole All-Star last year.
Kerry find themselves in a strange place on the eve of the 2017 season. On the one hand, their current senior side are still tantalising close to winning an All-Ireland. On the other hand, many Kerry supporters and interested neutrals are already pitching themselves forward a few years and contemplating the riches they will soon inherit from their underage teams.
2017 is universally regarded as too soon for this crop. In a strange way, that made add to the sense of urgency among the senior players. They have to collect another All-Ireland before being unseated by the new brigade.
Paul Geaney, in neither camp, sounds a word of caution on the underage success. Speaking to Balls.ie, he acknowledged the excitement in the air but reminded the world that this success very often doesn't translate to the senior grades.
Geaney cited Kerry's 1994 success as precedent.
Of the Kerry minor team that easily beat Galway in the 1994 All-Ireland final - their last All-Ireland at the grade before this recent spurt - only three team members went on to win All-Ireland titles at senior level. Barry O'Shea, Denis O'Dwyer and Mike Frank Russell were the lucky ones, and Russell didn't even start that '94 final.
There's always going to be excitement when there's All-Ireland's won at underage level. The time before this three in a row, it was '94 the last year a minor was won. And from that '94 crop, I'm not sure how many really pushed on and won a lot of senior medals. It doesn't always work out that way.
You see other counties that have won minors in the last couple of years and it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to push on and win seniors. But you'd have to be excited with the talent that's there. There's a good few of them training with us. They're good trainers and good lads. And there's definitely a bit of anticipation that they'll help us kick on and win All-Ireland's.
Kerry eyes typically narrow when mention of Dublin's alleged invincibility pops up. The more outwardly self-effacing but secretly confident among them might still play the old 'talk up the Dubs' game. But others have abandoned that and adopted a more bullish stance.
The traumatised Leinster counties waved the white flag a long time ago and it transpires that even the best of them can now no longer beat the Dublin junior team. Kerry football people don't countenance such talk.
Geaney warmly acknowledges Dublin's greatness and salutes their dominance in a strong era for Gaelic football. But he has to insist they are beatable.
From the start of it, we didn't believe it, like (in Dublin's invincibility) but then they just went on and won and won and won. Looking at it now, you have to accept it, they are the best team in the country. They are as good a Dublin team that has ever been around.
They haven't been around in a period of soft teams. There's been Donegal and Mayo and ourselves knocking around. They are three good teams there. It's not as if they've been playing through a period when there's been one other team. There's been good teams around trying to beat them. You have to appreciate they're an excellent team... but yeah, they're beatable. Every team is beatable. The history of sport will show you that anyone who's been put up on that pedestal is going to be a target for everybody.
Dublin are no different. There's a lot of hype about them being in the capital but I don't think anyone who's in range of beating them are listening to that. I'm sure someone is going to beat them eventually. Hopefully it will be us.
The 2016 semi-final was the 4th big championship match Kerry have lost to Dublin in a row. That rises to five if you include the 2016 League Final, also in Croker.
Were Gaelic Football still a 60-minute game, Kerry would have two of those matches and would have been significantly closer in two others. (The 2015 final, where Kerry struggled throughout, is something of an exception here).
That points to a frailty in the final ten minutes of games against the Dubs. The stats are alarming. Totting up the scores from the final ten minutes of these last five matches, Dublin beat Kerry by a whopping 5-17 to 0-8.
For Geaney, this is just small margins. Dublin have been a touch more polished and have retained faith in their gameplans in these frantic finales.
They finish their moves late on in games. We've probably been more sloppy and kicked wides rather than scores. Maybe, they've just been better organised and followed through on their plan in the last ten minutes and kept with it. Whereas we've deviated from our plan and not had as many scoring chances. It's just a couple of small things we need to tidy up.
Of course, Geaney didn't feature heavily in the latest ten minute hit-job. He was whipped off by Eamonn Fitzmaurice in the 2016 semi-final, a decision which provoked quizzical glances at the time and was heavily criticised once the game was lost. Fitzmaurice initially justified on the grounds that he wanted to get another defender back. But later in the week, he conceded it may have been an error.
Geaney is philosophical and understanding but determined to draw a line under it.
I suppose, in one sense, I was running close to empty on gas. On the other side of it, you'd always feel you have another little bit to give as well. It was just one of those decisions. It happened. It's history now and there's 2017 to be looked forward to. I just have to make sure I don't give any excuse to be taken off this year!
Finally, what of that goal. With Stephen Cluxton and Dublin already wobbling from the blow of Darran O'Sullivan's opening goal, Geaney punched a goal which the Dublin failed to scramble away in time. In real time, the Croke Park were unsure about whether it had crossed the line. Was Geaney certain it was a goal?
I knew it was over the line because I saw it straight down. There's always the anticipation that you're not going to be given it. Because sometimes umpires can be very slow on that sort of thing. But in fairness to them, they were straight to it. They went straight for the flag. So, it was a bit of a relief when I saw that. Sometimes, you can be asking yourself "was it over, was it not?" but I was too close not to see it. I would have been fairly upset if it wasn't given.
For Geaney and other West Kerry players, February does not only herald the beginning in the Allianz National Football League, it also means the arrival of the Lidl Comortas Peil Paídi O'Sé which is played in various venues across the Dingle Peninsula from February 17 - 19.
The competition was begun by Paídi 28 years ago. The competition has carried on since his passing in December 2012. Paídi's pub in Ventry serves as the headquarters of the event.
Balls.ie editor Mick McCarthy attended the competition in 2013, not long after Paídi's death.
It's genuinely one of the best things in the GAA. If you ever get a chance to get down to Dingle or Ventry, especially Ventry, to Paídi's pub, you should do it. We went down there the year after Paídi died and they were keeping it up in his name. We were doing a show there when I was working in Newstalk. It was genuinely one of the two best nights of my life.
This year, 32 clubs from 14 different counties are taking part, including Kildare's Sarsfields, Laois champions Stradbally, and Paul Flynn's club, Fingallions of Swords.
Listen to the interview below:
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