Thursday 23 February 2017

Diarmuid Connolly's absence could tip the scales in Mayo's favour

Michael Verney

Published 03/09/2015 | 15:02

30 August 2015; Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly shakes hands with manager Jim Gavin after being shown a red card. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
30 August 2015; Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly shakes hands with manager Jim Gavin after being shown a red card. GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship, Semi-Final, Dublin v Mayo, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Diarmuid Connolly's absence for Dublin this Saturday's mouthwatering semi-final replay could tip the scales in Mayo's favour in a game of inches.

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The inspirational St Vincent's forward had his appeal against his proposed one-match ban dismissed last night and Jim Gavin will be forced to shuffle the pack significantly without his key man.

Dublin's final quarter collapse will have given Gavin serious food for thought already but the loss of his vice-captain and one of the leading contenders for Footballer of the Year is a bitter pill to swallow.

While last Sunday's performance was far from vintage, the 28-year-old still came up trumps when it mattered and he coolly finished a first-half penalty as well as dispatching a tricky free off the outside of his right boot.

With four-time All Star Paul Flynn showing patchy form all season, an on-song Connolly is more important to their title bid than ever and his loss could have a disastrous domino effect on their approach.

Read more: Huge blow for Dublin as Diarmuid Connolly appeal fails

Kevin McManamon was magnificent off the bench once again but should he start in Connolly's place, this would reduce the element of energy which the St Jude's man offers when legs are tiring.

Similarly, Alan Brogan scored a point in a last quarter cameo but whether the 33-year-old is capable of putting in a big shift over 70 minutes remains to be seen.

While the once highly-regarded Dublin bench is looking thin on the ground at the moment and the loss of Connolly's star quality in attack means thet there is now an extra emphasis on Dublin's discipline Saturday evening.

With Lee Keegan sacrificing his attacking game to help keep tabs on Connolly, Dublin were able to reduce Mayo's effect on the scoreboard. But now he has far more licence to raid forward and positively influence the game.

Read more: GAA confirm Diarmuid Connolly's match ban

If Keegan and Colm Boyle can pierce holes in the Dublin rearguard and bring Aidan O'Shea and Cillian O'Connor more into the game, then the west could be well and truly awake come Saturday evening.

Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes are likely to be licking their lips at that proposition and if Donal Vaughan is passed fit to play, Mayo could be one step closer to ending their famine, which stretches back to 1951.

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