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Gilroy focus now on team

JUST eight days after his All-Ireland dreams seemed to be in tatters, Diarmuid Connolly's CHC reprieve now hands Pat Gilroy the enviable luxury of being able to draw on the full scope of his squad when he decides on the 15 players who will start Dublin's All-Ireland final clash with Kerry on September 18th.

Last night's hearing reportedly lasted close to three hours but upon its conclusion, Connolly himself was informed by the committee that he would be free to play in Dublin's first All-Ireland final for 16 years.

Word in the Capital in recent days suggested that Dublin had identified a procedural glitch in the sending off and would attempt to get Connolly cleared on a technicality. But the lengthy hearing focused squarely on video evidence of the incident and revolved around the simple argument that the player had been harshly treated.


"The CHC are a very, very fair group of people. If there was a case for Diarmuid to answer, he wouldn't have gotten off," said Dublin chairman, Andy Kettle today.

The decision to downgrade the red card to a yellow means Gilroy can name an unchanged team for the second time in succession after finding an impressive winning formula in the seven-point quarter-final victory over Tyrone in the quarter-final.

On that night, Connolly scored seven points from play in an impressive shooting exhibition, one which proved his pedigree as a top inter-county forward. And though he endured a far more frustrating match against Donegal - culminating in his shoving match with Marty Boyle - the St Vincent's man's form marks him as an almost certain starter against the Kingdom in two weeks time.

Connolly has scored 5-21 in League and championship action this year, holding down a place in every Gilroy team selection since February.

And with Paul Flynn set to be fit despite picking up a hamstring injury in the gruelling Donegal win and Rory O'Carroll already back in full training, Gilroy can, if he so wishes, name an unchanged team for the final.

Kevin McManamon is pushing hard for a starting berth after a game-changing cameo off the bench in the semi-final, while Eoghan O'Gara may well have been the beneficiary had Connolly not been cleared. But the likelihood now is that Gilroy will stick with his tried and trusted as he attempts to conquer the Kingdom.

"Personally, I'm delighted for Diarmuid himself," added Kettle. "It would have been an awful way for a fella to miss out on an All-Ireland final."

THE Dublin County Board's county committee last night accepted the proposal from the CCC to shorten the Evening Herald Dublin SHC and revert to a straight knock-out format. The re-jig will now see last year's four semi-finalists seeded and entered straight into the second round while no team will be relegated from the competition.