Monday 11 December 2017

Revelation Connolly fires Dubs' revolution

David Kelly

David Kelly

Just before Bernard Brogan scored the 21st in a series of one of the most thorough expositions of point-scoring ever seen on the sainted green sward, Diarmuid Connolly sprinted some 20 yards to spring the ball from the weary hands of Philip Jordan.

In a microcosm, it summed up the blue-collar ethic that underscored every minute of Dublin's most comprehensive statement of footballing intent in a decade. Connolly's performance didn't overshadow his team-mates: it exemplified the collective.

But Connolly stopped the breath. This teeming city is brimful of stellar athletes we have never heard of. Why? Because they couldn't wed their ego to the discipline required to make it on the big stage.

Football and hurling come easy to Diarmuid Connolly. But until now, it was a thinly concealed rumour that he could transfer his innate talent to a time and place when it really mattered.


We knew he was fond of the bright lights on a Saturday night. Now, instead of being distracted by the flashing lights of a nightclub, Connolly belatedly danced to a different beat before his adoring faithful with a bravura display.

Finally, he has announced his capacity to thrill. Let there be no more condescending talk of a fully-grown man requiring confidence to thrive. He has arrived. But not on his terms. On the team's.

"He's capable of doing anything," sighed Pat Gilroy afterwards.

"He's a phenomenal talent and he's capable of doing even better than that. We see that at training every week.

"We've been waiting a while to see it in Croke Park. He is that good. He's done well in the league and committed himself hugely to his efforts. Aside from the points, his work ethic was huge."

That work ethic underpinned all. From Paul Flynn's immediate trio of breaking-ball triumphs in the opening minutes -- maintaining his spectacular summer of hard-nosed achievement -- to Connolly's desperate dash into the right corner to chase down a loose ball in the game's eerily premature trash time.

We wonder if Gilroy tosses away the whistle in these now infamous A v B games a la Cody.

Such was Dublin's intensity, they could foul neatly every two and a bit minutes yet paradoxically retain their discipline at all times (notwithstanding an appalling refereeing display).

They created scoring chances every two and a bit minutes too, 32 in all, from which 22 points were harvested.


The goals would have been merely decorative and perhaps are better shelved for when tighter confines are presented by the oppressive Donegal defensive machine.

The sadness of Tyrone's demise was revealed in Gilroy's unwittingly cutting revelation that some of Dublin's challenge matches were arguably more competitive than this sorry destruction of the erstwhile northern lights.

Dublin destroyed Tyrone within their central citadel and, from there, highlighted by the conquest of the artist Sean Cavanagh by the supreme artisan Denis Bastick, who may yet emerge to join Flynn in shedding that desperate tag of being 'unsung'.

Bastick was central to many a song on Saturday night, he can be assured.

"There's an awful lot of things that the camera doesn't see," agreed Gilroy. "Paul Flynn does an enormous amount of work. Denis Bastick? I don't think anybody ever thinks that he has a good game.

"But he took on one of the greatest footballers in Ireland and really silenced him. It takes huge commitment and discipline to do that. It often goes unnoticed but it doesn't get unnoticed by us."

Not much did, clearly. From the long, early ball to the forwards, which inured them against Tyrone's legendary capacity to regain midfield possession, Dublin simply thrived in every department.

Securing an inordinate amount of that 'dirty' midfield ball allowed them to hit Connolly and Bernard Brogan early.

And all the while, the defence remained rock solid, even allowing for the referee's eccentricities. Underpinning it all was sheer effort.

This was not unexpected in the least; the only surprise was that it has taken so long for Dublin to deliver such completion on a significant day.

"We knew there was a big performance in us," conceded Barry Cahill, the utilitarian dynamo who perfectly typifies the marriage of craft and graft.

Far from the dreary drones of so many of today's modern football voices, the appliance of science need not always be devoid of beauty.

Dublin's philosophy encourages talent to flourish; the tacit admission that it can do so only when backboned by elbow grease has perhaps taken time to filter through to all.


The evidence was everywhere. Bernard Brogan won the first three balls after Flynn's opening hat-trick of breaks. Cian O'Sullivan's stunning possession that turned defence into attack for Alan Brogan to tap over the first-half's last score capped a stunning opening salvo.

When Tyrone broke free from the stranglehold in the 26th minute, Jordan looked up and spied seven blue shirts stood in front of him; every Red Hand was behind him. A poor delivery allowed O'Sullivan to surge forward and Bernard Brogan twisted the knife.

Through it all, Connolly sparkled like a shimmering diamond, the rough edges sharpened by true grit.

Gilroy will not be surprised by the familiar hype that will now attend the rest of August. But he and his men won't bat an eyelid; they will be too busy working.

Irish Independent

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