Sunday 22 July 2018

Should Diarmuid Connolly start or sit? Brogan, Mulligan, Harte, Gavin, Curran and McMenamin weigh in

Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin
Diarmuid Connolly of Dublin

Dublin forward Diarmuid Connolly is set to make his intercounty return this weekend when defending All-Ireland champions Dublin face Tyrone in the second of two All-Ireland semi-finals at Croke Park.

Connolly is eligible to play after serving his 12-week suspension for a push on linesman Ciaran Branagan earlier this summer, but Dublin manager Jim Gavin has been typically coy on whether his two-time All Star should start or sit Sunday's tie with Tyrone.

The verdict is split among former players, with Alan Brogan, Owen Mulligan, Mickey Harte, Paul Curran and Ryan McMenamin all weighing in on the selection dilemma.

MICKEY HARTE

“It’s something for Jim Gavin to decide, how and when we see him, and in what context.

"I can’t say much about the detail, but I know for sure he’s certainly a strength that Dublin didn’t have in their games since he got that ‘sending off’, so it is an advantage for Dublin to have him in script just now.

“He’s absolutely a quality player, and has developed into an even better player than he was when he first came on the scene, and had all the natural talent and skill and ability. But he’s a powerful player now, along with that.

“We always knew he was a very talented player, got all the skills, comfortable on either side, and physically imposing. And at that stage he hadn’t developed as much power as he has now. I think he’s a Connolly-plus from 2011, which means we’ve got to be very careful.”

ALAN BROGAN

“Starting him on Sunday would go against Jim’s principles a little bit. He’s very much about form and about whoever has the jersey owning it.

“But this is an All-Ireland semi-final. There’s a piece of history at stake here; three All-Irelands

in-a-row and a very dangerous Tyrone between Dublin and a crack at that amazing achievement.

“So there’s a moral dilemma  to be negotiated.

“Is it worth putting your principles aside to get your best player back into the team? If it was just a straight-up football decision, there are any number of reasons for Jim to pick Diarmuid.

“Tyrone will concede the Dublin kick-out and set up camp around ten metres outside their ‘45’. Diarmuid is the best of the Dublin footballers at kicking points from outside that exclusion zone, particularly with Paul Flynn on the bench.

“And Jim could just feel that there’s just too much at stake here not to have your best players on the pitch.”

OWEN MULLIGAN

“I don’t think he’ll start but he’s a massive player for Dublin, he’s top class, one of the best in the whole of Ireland. But Tyrone will make sure they target him in their own way.

“You only have to look at his discipline record and I think Tyrone will pounce on that.

“They’ll definitely target it in the same way as we would have done.”

“He is still a young fella. He is in the prime of his GAA career.

“I think he will hit the ground running. I think it will give Dublin a lift and give the fans a lift.”

PAUL CURRAN

“I would have absolutely no hesitation giving him a starting role in the half-forward line or even at midfield alongside Brian Fenton.

“Connolly must have been very annoyed at the suspension handed down (12 weeks) after a very innocuous incident with a linesman in the opening game of the championship but he has served the time and must be really looking forward to getting his teeth into the next game and possibly two.

“He is a match winner and a very intelligent player who is well used to being marked closely.

“He has always been a great team player for the Dubs in recent years and his ability to kick long-range points could be one key facet of Dublin’s game-plan against Mickey Harte’s men.”

RYAN McMENAMIN

“The one thing Mickey would say to the players is  to expect the unexpected. He would always preach that.

“I think Diarmuid Connolly is too good a player…you are going to have to make adjustments when he comes on.

“He hasn’t played in 12 weeks so match sharpness is going to be an issue. But I would say that he is going to be sprung from the bench. I would be surprised if he is starting.

“But Mickey has probably got his match- ups already done. He already knows how is going to be marking who. He is meticulous – the same as Jim Gavin.”

JIM GAVIN

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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