Wednesday 24 May 2017

Diarmuid Connolly explains the thinking behind his costly All-Ireland final sideline ball

Fatigue not an issue as St Vincent's captain chases fourth Dublin football title on Saturday

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin kicks a sideline ball in the dying minutes
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin kicks a sideline ball in the dying minutes
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Things are going well for Diarmuid Connolly just now.

He's four days away from a county final where he'll captain St Vincent's. And it's just a few weeks since he picked up his fourth All-Ireland medal after scoring the crucial goal of the game from a penalty. On top of that, he's in the shake-up to collect an All-Star award when the football winners are announced tomorrow morning.

So perhaps its unsurprising that Connolly can't get enough football just now.

"I just missed out on a holiday that's all, missed my week off after the All-Ireland final," Connolly said of the replay.

"Things roll on. We still had 10 days to the first round of the club championship, it's an alright time to recover, do a bit of celebrating and get back down to business."

Of course there mightn't have been any need for a replay. His attempt at a score from a sideline in the drawn game when Dublin were a point up and just needed to play keep ball saw him take a bit of flak. However, he says it didn't register with him at the time.

"I don't read the media too much," he recalled. "All I wanted to do was put the ball dead. There was what? A minute left in injury time?

Regrettable

"Just put the ball dead and we could set up for the kick-out, which actually didn't happen. We were too slow for the kick-out. They ended up getting it off short and they went up and scored a point.

"But I mean, yeah, I wouldn't say it was regrettable. But maybe I should have kept possession of the ball in hindsight.

"But these things happen in the game."

It all worked out for him in the end as he nervelessly slotted the decisive penalty in the replay.

The medal collection is growing but he insists he has no interest in slowing down or following the example of Jack McCaffrey and Rory O'Carroll and pursuing other interests. And that includes playing hurling.

Connolly is widely regarded as one of the best hurlers in Dublin when he lines out for St Vincent's but admits "that ship has sailed".

"Look, the lads went off and did their own thing. Jack (McCaffrey)'s back.

"He played club football this year. Rory (O'Carroll) is a different kettle of fish, he went off and pursued his career over in New Zealand with his girlfriend. That will all happen in the future.

"I don't see myself playing inter-county hurling in the future, no. I played club hurling this year, albeit a 20-minute spell for one game. I'll definitely play club hurling. But not the inter-county side of things. That ship has sailed unfortunately."

For now all the focus is on Saturday's Dublin SFC final clash with Castleknock.

Theirs is a remarkable story as they shot through the ranks in Dublin having only been formed in 1998 and played in the junior grade as recently as 2012. And in Vincent's they face Dublin football royalty.

Different

"The funny thing about it is I have actually never played against Castleknock. We haven't played them in the league yet this year and they only came up from intermediate last year.

"So it's a different challenge in that sense because most of the teams you play in the last rounds of the championship you know from over the years.

"You know their players, their systems. But Castleknock are a different animal that way. We can look at tape and I was here for the Jude's game they are well-organised, well-drilled and they are young lads who are used to winning so it will be a different challenge."

The Marino side go into the game as clear favourites but having been turned over in the decider 12 months ago by a Ballyboden team when they were also tipped to win, Connolly won't be taking anything for granted.

"Most of the first division teams are fairly on a par at the moment," he said. "I said last year when we were here that anybody could win the championship.

"Nobody gave Ballyboden a shout last year, they were 5/1 coming in to play us and walked away with it and went on and won the All-Ireland.

"That's how strong Dublin club football is at the moment. People mightn't realise that.

"People wrote off Jude's against Crokes, they went on and they beat them. People were writing off Castleknock against Jude's, there's a result there.

"People were writing off us against Ballymun and we got a result as well. It's unpredictable but very enjoyable at the same time."

"I saw the second half (of Castleknock's semi-final win over St Jude's). It was a good game. Castleknock I thought controlled it around the middle.

"They had a lot of good runners with the ball. Ciarán (Kilkenny) keeps the ball and goes lateral but then they penetrate with runs that can get them through the middle third and then they have the forwards to take on their men inside."

Connolly is aiming for a fourth title in Dublin and having been the losing captain in last year's final, he's determined to go one better.

"I was captain last year and I'm captain again this year. Obviously I was massively disappointed not to be able to go up and lift the cup up for the club and bring it back there," he adds.

"It's been a big target of mine for the last 12 months to get back to where we are and hopefully walk up the steps of Parnell Park on Saturday afternoon and bring that cup back to St Vincent's."

Irish Independent

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