Monday 27 January 2020

'The level of abuse that he has to take is above and beyond' - Mattie Forde defends Diarmuid Connolly Sportsdesk

Former Wexford corner-forward Mattie Forde has defended embattled Dublin centre-half-forward Diarmuid Connolly after he made physical contact with linesman Ciaran Branagan during Dublin's 12-point win over Carlow on Sunday.

Connolly approached Branagan after the linesman had awarded Carlow a line ball midway through the second-half, with Connolly putting his hands on the official after previously engaging in a skirmish with Carlow midfielder Brendan Murphy moments before.

As a consequence of his actions, Connolly could now receive up to a 12-week suspension if he is found guilty of committing a Category V offence of the GAA's Rule 7.2, which covers threatening conduct towards an official.

Croke Park’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) will review footage of the incident on Tuesday, but Forde feels that in general that Connolly receives a lot more criticism than he actually deserves.

“I think he takes an unbelievable amount of abuse and 90% of it we don’t actually see on television,” Forde told the RTE GAA Podcast.

“I’ve been at matches and seen. Most teams have done it over the years with good players, they send out someone to get in their face and try and put them off their game. I think the level of abuse that he has to take is above and beyond.

“He has a reputation now of being a bit of a hot head and that, something similar to what I was myself. I don’t think there’s a whole lot in it to be honest. He still could get punished but I think it’d be exceptionally harsh considering what he has to put up with himself.

“I’m not saying that’s an excuse or anything like that. Something similar happened in Tipperary with Evan Comerford. I think a suspension coming out of that would be very, very harsh.

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“I think there were other people along the sideline wanting the linesman to raise his flag and flag it.

“But I think most of us got on with playing football rather than try to highlight things that the opposition and players are doing. He didn’t punch a player, he didn’t walk on anyone. As I said I think he takes far more in abuse than he dishes out.”

Of course, Forde himself is no stranger to lengthy bans after the Kilanerin forward received a 12-week suspension in 2006 for stamping, or 'unintentionally walking', on Offaly's Shane O'Sullivan in a Leinster SFC semi-final.

Forde said that he had considered retiring from intercoutny football as a result of the incident, but that he made amends with O'Sullivan who he claims he is still good friends with to this day.

“It was tough going for a while, taking good bit of abuse about it and probably still do to a lesser extent,” Forde added.

“I would be very good friends with (Shane) Sullivan now. Having been talking to him about it numerous times, he never had an issue with it and hadn’t from day one in fairness. It’s the one thing that people would nearly always associate with.

“I do still hear it from time to time. That’s just the way it is. I would prefer to see Diarmuid Connolly hitting 50 and 60 yard passes with the outside of his left foot, never mind his right foot. When people talk about him, they still talk about stuff he has done wrong rather than stuff he has done right, which I think is pretty sad.

“He’s an outstanding footballer and I think everyone else in the country is the real loser in that we don’t get to actually see him expressing himself properly. That’s the real sad part of it. If there’s anyone tough enough to deal with it at this stage, it’s him.”


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