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Gavin never gave up on a man with magic in his boots


Diarmuid Connolly

Diarmuid Connolly

Diarmuid Connolly

The contrast in the understatement of his delivery and the weight of what he was delivering could not have been greater when Jim Gavin dropped into the middle of a routine interview that Diarmuid Connolly had returned to training.

Dublin were inching closer to another All-Ireland semi-final. Having beaten Cork the previous night and with a Croke Park fixture against Roscommon the following Saturday, their progress seemed assured.

In that context, Gavin's decision to reach for Connolly so far into the season constituted a shock.

Only a few weeks earlier Connolly had been Boston-bound for a second successive summer, but a hitch in gaining entry to the US on time scuppered those plans.

With everything you felt you knew about Gavin's management, you sensed the Dublin train had left the station as far as Connolly was concerned and there could be no catching up. He had his chance, many chances it seemed, to return but had spurned them all to be somewhere else that summer.

That should have been it. But it wasn't. As manager, Gavin didn't have any obvious indulgences and with the breadth of his squad, he didn't need them. But if there was one, it was Connolly.

Even one so process-driven and squad orientated made allowances for the talent and the promise of what he could do, how he could potentially elevate a team like no other player with a wave of those magic wands. Thus, early on in his stewardship, Gavin made Connolly his vice-captain.

There probably hasn't been a better two-footed ball striker in modern Gaelic football. Some have been better with their right, others better with their left, but none bringing near perfect symmetry off both sides.

For technique and the power he could generate with his kicks off either side on the run, he has been a class apart.

Some of his deliveries off the outside of his right, travelling 40 and 50 metres, will stand out in any personal highlights reel as much as the scores. Even when last year's replayed All-Ireland final with Kerry didn't go well for him on his second half introduction, he picked out a most glorious pass for a Ciaran Kilkenny point that fitted that criteria.

He didn't necessarily get everything out of his game for the talent he had, as Bernard Brogan did.

Still, more sets of eyes were inevitably drawn towards him than any other player, fascinated by what might come next. He brought so much suspense, edge and magic. The man for the encore.

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