Curious case of Diarmuid Connolly will put Dublin at risk, insists Peter Canavan
Peter Canavan believes the absence of Diarmuid Connolly could make Dublin vulnerable this year as they bid to win a fourth successive All-Ireland, describing the talismanic 30-year-old as a "massive loss" to Jim Gavin's side.
Connolly has failed to appear for Dublin since being used as a substitute in their league victory over Mayo back in February, with blues' boss Jim Gavin confirming last week that Connolly was no longer part of his squad.
Speaking at the launch of Sky Sports' GAA Championship coverage, Canavan (above), a two-time All-Ireland winner with Tyrone, highlighted how essential Connolly had been to Dublin's victory last year.
"When Jim Gavin needed somebody to get them over the line, it was Diarmuid Connolly that he brought in," he said. "It appeared things weren't going that well behind the scenes, but he still turned to him when he needed him most. When Dublin needed to win a free in the dying seconds of the game, it was Diarmuid Connolly that did it."
Speculation surrounding Connolly's absence increased last week when he made a return to action with the hurlers of St Vincent's, while Gavin noted that "the door will always be open" for his return to the Dublin fold.
For Canavan, the issue is a rare crack in the team's typically seamless facade.
"This is the first time maybe where you could say Gavin is not in complete control, whereby it appears Diarmuid Connolly has definitely ruffled a few feathers. Up until that point, Dublin has been so well marshalled, and co-ordinated and organised, very little was getting out of the camp. That comes with winning, and they've been so successful."
Despite their strength in depth, Canavan believes a few key injuries could bring about Dublin's demise, although the six-time All-Star admitted that thinking that could be clutching at straws for Dublin's rivals.
"It will give other teams hope and confidence. They played games without Stephen Cluxton in the league and looked a different team without him. But if there is any team that can cope with it and has the personnel and depth, it's probably Dublin. Of course he is a loss to them, but they still have a strong panel "
Whatever the issues simmering beneath the surface, Canavan expects Gavin to keep the door wide open for Connolly's return.
"When you have someone of that calibre and class, you'd be foolish to put a line through his name at this stage of the season."
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.