O'BYRNE SHIELD SEMI-FINAL
DUBLIN v OFFALY
(Parnell Pk, Today 2.30)
DIARMUID CONNOLLY will hope to relaunch his Sky Blue career with a scoring flourish in Donnycarney tonight.
The bar has been set pretty high, however, given that an experimental Dublin opened their O'Byrne Shield account by hammering 6-10 past a non-existent Wexford defence last Sunday.
There is no doubting Connolly's talent to compete at inter-county level, but his career path has followed a roller-coaster trajectory since first he burst into the Dublin team under Paul Caffrey.
Last season, he made a late spring return only to disappear around the start of Dublin's qualifier campaign, evidently frustrated by a lack of game-time.
But his club form with Vincent's last autumn, coupled with his performances for DIT in the O'Byrne Cup, have propelled Connolly back into the thoughts of his fellow clubman, Pat Gilroy.
At the conclusion of the 2010 club season Connolly was selected on both the Evening Herald/Dublin Bus Dubs Stars football and hurling teams after putting in some stellar performances during the local championship.
Vinnies lost out to eventual champions Kilmacud Crokes in the county semi-final by one point, 1-10 to 1-9, in a game they could have edged with Connolly impressing at full- forward when scoring 1-2 from play off Dublin full-back Rory O'Carroll.
Connolly was also DIT's top scorer in both their O'Byrne Cup victory over Wexford and defeat by Westmeath last weekend in Athlone.
Gilroy's options this January have been decimated, which may account for their early O'Byrne Cup exit, but he's using the Shield to blood some new faces and have another look at some who had previously fallen out of favour.
Kevin McManamon has pressed his claims for a league recall by finding the net in each of the last two games, but most eyes tonight will be on Connolly -- who is eligible despite playing in the O'Byrne Cup for his college.
Paddy Andrews is included among the Dublin subs, he played for DCU in their O'Byrne Cup semi-final defeat by Kildare.
Presumably Offaly will be fitter and more competitive than Wexford, but the odds still heavily favour a home win.
ODDS: Dublin 1/7, Draw 10/1, Offaly 5/1