Friday 22 February 2019

Connell not expecting Connolly to be back in blue this season

Former Dublin footballer Senan Connell. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Former Dublin footballer Senan Connell. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Former Dublin footballer Senan Connell has cast doubt on Diarmuid Connolly returning to the All-Ireland champions' squad for the five-in-a-row push.

Connolly has been off the squad since last March, having played just 20 minutes against Mayo last year in a league match, prompting Connell to speculate that he won't be back.

"From my own personal point of view, I can't see it, just adding up bits and pieces. There's not much comes out of that camp, but I find it difficult to see Diarmuid coming back and I haven't heard anything to the contrary."

Connell said he could shed little light on why Connolly left or if he has been or will be asked back.

"What we do know is that Jim Gavin is ruthless and he will be looking forward.

"I'd love to see him (Connolly) back in a Dublin jersey. I think he's the most talented and the most influential player that we could have in a time when scores were needed - like against Mayo the year before. He can turn a game in an instant."

Dublin selector Declan Darcy strongly indicated a potential return for Connolly on the day after last year's All-Ireland final, suggesting management would want him back. Connell suspects his individualism may be a factor.

"If you talk to players, from the little snippets that you might get in the off-season, they will talk about how selfless he is in terms of his runs.

"But I'm not so sure whether he's that player or whether he believes that he can play his way, and that's the reason why he's gone.

"I've played on teams where that genius who might be a bit of a - I'm not going to say Diarmuid's a loose cannon - but the guy who might be a loose cannon needs a different sort of management.

"Players would accept that he is different and would accept that he, maybe, lives by different rules and you play him and he plays well.

"I'm not sure whether that's Jim's way really. And the fact that Brian Howard has done a job and Jim was looking for the next replacement up there in that front six? I can't see it happening, I can't see him coming back.

"I think Jim's motto is 'there's no stars on this team - we'll win with or without you'. I think he's proven that last year."

Connell and Gavin briefly crossed paths as Dublin footballers at the beginning of the last decade and while Connell didn't detect a ruthless streak in Gavin then, he still noticed his drive.

"You might remember, he ended up being a free-taker. By his own admission when he came onto the panel he definitely wasn't a free-taker. He was a left-footed guy so he trained to the nth degree.

"If anything, what I got off him was that he was a real leader. They talk about him as a disciplinarian and that if you're in the army you're a disciplinarian but it's about leadership and communication and everything else when you come from the army.

"He was a communicator for a younger player like me. He'd talk to you and give you little tit-bits and I actually got his position when he retired."

Connell was impressed with a Dublin team, without any of their 2018 All-Ireland winners, starting the year so well as they drew with Meath before edging them out on penalties in last Saturday's O'Byrne Cup semi-final and expects more 'springers' this year to make their mark - just as his Na Fianna club-mate Eoin Murchan did last year.

"I think cover for the full-back line is going to be essential. Seánie McMahon is a guy who might see a bit of game-time," he suggested, also referencing another Na Fianna man, Aaron Byrne, and Seán Bugler from St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh.

"I was impressed with him (McMahon) the other night. He's the modern-day full-back and he's not afraid to go. He's flexible. He fisted a point and he's not afraid of the heavy stuff either.

"So that full-back line is where cover is needed and I'd hope to see him add a few options in the league," he added.

Irish Independent

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