Curve Ball: Shootout at dawn: 2013 still delivers
IT'S not just inter-county footballers who go all masochistic at 7am, their slavish devotion directed towards the distant promise of All-Ireland deliverance.
This column took one such notion during the week, arose before dawn and "went to work" ... we dug out a dusty DVD of the 2013 semi-final between the Dubs and Kerry.
And to think one could have so much fun at that time of the morning ...
Now, we could plausibly claim it was all for research purposes, utilising recent history to second-guess looming weekend events. In truth, it had more to do with erasing the dullness of a championship only elevated from total tedium by two (or rather three) engaging semi-finals.
Kerry/Tyrone was hailed by some as a quasi-classic, if only because finally we had a competitive battle. Both Dublin/Mayo ties were typical Dublin/Mayo, fortunes oscillating in a riotously madcap way.
But none of these three matches came close to touching Dublin/Kerry 2013 for spellbinding forward quality; full-blooded yet (for the most part) cynicism-free commitment; and pure drama.
Oh, and some dodgy defending too - but that was part of the wonder.
Time, though, to don our research robes ... are there lessons to be absorbed from it all?
Plenty, but one suspects that both managers will have spent so much time dissecting this DVD (and others) as to render a glorious reprise unlikely.
Both defences suffered that day, yet Dublin's initial trauma during the first 25-plus minutes was by far the most striking.
Kevin O'Brien couldn't handle James O'Donoghue and was gone inside the first quarter; Ger Brennan laboured in the slipstream of a sublime Colm Cooper and didn't resurface after half-time.
Both defenders have suffered major injury tribulations since then, and neither will feature this weekend.
Jack McCaffrey will be at the coalface, having excelled all season - yet even he endured a torrid first half to that semi-final, struggling to pin down the ghosting Donnchadh Walsh.
Dublin's belated rearguard resistance was largely attributed to Cian O'Sullivan's reversion to centre-back, thereby curtailing the Gooch's playmaking influence. That said, as Cooper started loitering closer to goal, he was at the creative hub of Kerry's last three points.
Most of this season's evidence suggests that Dublin's defence won't be so badly exposed on Sunday. They have learned to play a more structured system, central to it all being O'Sullivan's intelligent, floating presence as a de facto sweeper.
But will Dublin's No 6 be fit to play? That could be a game-changer.
The other key difference, though, is that Kerry have changed too. As last September underlined, they have no problem going ultra-cagey in pursuit of Sam. So maybe we should enjoy 2013 for what it was, rather than presuming this is how it will always be.