The road to September
The paths to claim Sam and Liam are full of pitfalls. Mark Corcoran looks at the teams the Boys in Blue are likely to face on their respective quests to claim silverware in September
As Kerry meandered through Championship 2014, many people believed they were a team in transition. Talisman Colm Cooper was sidelined with an ACL injury. Before the epic semi-final draw with Mayo, Kieran Donaghy had played just three minutes of Championship football. It was left to less established talents to drive the team forward. On and on they went, defeating Donegal to win a largely unexpected, certainly by those outside the Kingdom, All-Ireland title last September.
And the defending champions only stand to get better. Let that sink in. The Gooch returns to the fold and will no-doubt be eager to make up for lost time. Tommy Walsh is back in the famous green and gold jersey after a five year stint in Australia. Add to the mix 2014 Player Of The Year James O'Donoghue, and talents like Paul Geaney and Barry John Keane - and it is clear that Kerry will be a handful for any team this season.
Are Dublin and Kerry on-course for a September showdown? Time will tell.
Last September Mayo named not one, but two, replacements to succeed James Horan as manager. 2015 is the maiden voyage of the Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly co-management team. We'll soon find out if they will sink or sail on towards September.
Their League form was patchy - three wins, three defeats and a draw. An impressive victory over Kerry in Round 1 was arguably the highlight. The low point was undoubtably the 14 point drubbing they received at the hands of the Dubs in Castlebar.
To retain their provincial title Mayo will likely have to overcome both Galway and Roscommon - by no means an easy feat. In 2015 the winners of the Leinster and Connacht Championships (or the team that defeats them in the quarter-finals) are scheduled to meet at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.
While Dublin fans carry fond memories of the 2013 All-Ireland final, Mayo have beaten Dublin in their last two meetings at the semi-final stage (2006 & 2012). They will no doubt fancy their chances of making it three-in-a-row this year.
Can any team stop Dublin from marching through Leinster? The most likely challenge will probably come from the Royal County.
This could be the fourth year in a row that Dublin face Meath in a Leinster final. While the Dubs comfortably beat the Royals in last year's decider, the 2013 and 2012 finals were not as comfortable. Late scores in 2014 helped Dublin to win by seven points in 2014, however in 2013 the gap between the sides was only three.
This is Mick O'Dowd's third year in the Meath hot-seat but he will be hoping it's fourth time lucky for the Royals in the Leinster final.
Ger Cunningham might well be hoping that his Dublin team are not drawn against Cork anytime soon. The Rebels beat Dublin twice during the League - including coming from 12 points down to claim victory in the semi-final.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy has endured a roller-coaster ride since his return to management with Cork in 2011. JBM's All-Ireland dreams were dashed in 2013 by Clare, in an All-Ireland final replay, and in 2014 by Tipperary at the semi-final stage.
The Reds will launch what they hope will be a successful Munster campaign against Waterford in Thurles on June 7th.
Galway are Dublin's first opponent in Leinster. Dubliners have happy memories of the last time these two sides clashed in the province. In that game Anthony Daly managed the Dubs to win their first Leinster title in 52 years. And Dublin were victorious again by six points when the sides met in the League in March.
But the men in maroon and white are a dangerous outfit - after all they do have Joe Canning in their ranks. Galway were very unlucky not to have defeated Kilkenny in last year's campaign and on any given day they will feel they can beat anybody. The Dubs will need to heed the warning.
It has been a turbulent spring for the reigning All-Ireland champions. The 'King' (talisman Henry Shefflin) finally called it quits after 16 seasons and to make matters worse Brian Cody's team were very nearly relegated in the League - only beating Clare by a point in a play-off.
But write Kilkenny off at your peril. If Dublin are to reach a Leinster final it is likely they will face the Cats. And Dublin's recent Championship form against Kilkenny hardly makes for encouraging reading. Kilkenny have beaten Dublin five times over the last six seasons. Dublin's only victory came in a replay en-route to winning the Leinster title in 2013.
While Dublin did beat Kilkenny during the League, make no mistake about it, beating them again in a Leinster final would be a huge achievement for Ger Cunningham's team.