Saturday 24 August 2019

'This guy isn't a normal player' - Former Dublin boss says Diarmuid Connolly is worth the risk

Dublin manager Jim Gavin in conversation with Diarmuid Connolly. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Dublin manager Jim Gavin in conversation with Diarmuid Connolly. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

One read of Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly situation is that Jim Gavin was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

Should Dublin's five-in-a-row bid fall short and Connolly not be part of the panel, the question would be asked how the Dubs could go in chase of history without the county's most talented player?

And now that Connolly is part of the set-up, his late addition will undoubtedly examined should the 'Drive for Five' come unstuck.

However, former Dublin manager Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey is in no doubt that Gavin has made the right call, stressing that players of Connolly's ability are always worth the risk.

"If you are asking me that question and asking me if I would have brought him back then, absolutely, he is that good," Caffrey said at the launch of the EirGrid Official Timing Sponsorship.

"He has been away from the game but he has played at a very high level for his club, in each of his last two games he scored two goals in both games. He came on against Na Fianna around Paddy's weekend and scored two goals in a challenge match. This guy isn't a normal player…. (he) is a different kettle of fish, you are talking about a player who can score, see a pass, pick a pass and he certainly brings something that's totally different."

Caffrey rates Connolly as the most talented player he has ever had at his disposal in any dressing room and expects him to see action before the summer is out, not least because Dublin's options off the bench, while still healthy, are not what they were.

"I definitely think Diarmuid is going to see game-time in the next three games," he said.

Former Dublin football manager Paul Caffrey at the launch of the GAA’s official timing sponsorship with EirGrid. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Former Dublin football manager Paul Caffrey at the launch of the GAA’s official timing sponsorship with EirGrid. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

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"It's irrelevant really if he is in the 26 or not the next day, Diarmuid Connolly has been performing at a very high level for his club all along. Jim takes a serious read from what he sees in front of him and I'm sure Diarmuid is performing down there and is going to push himself up the pecking order.

"If you look at Dublin, seven forwards have really rotated this year and that's Cormac (Costello) and Dean (Rock) for that last space the other five are guaranteed starters so I don't see him starting but in terms of the pecking order, the subs you have Paddy Andrews, Kevin McManamon.

"Eoghan O'Gara has been in match programmes but hasn't had a minute, Bernard (Brogan) hasn't had a minute so you can probably dismiss them in having a big impact going forward. The one who has had a big impact is Paddy Small, he has played in all five games but I can see Diarmuid pushing himself up the pecking order."

It is not without its risk. It's unlikely Gavin would have added any other player to his set-up at this late stage. Is there any chance the decision to add Connolly so late in the day could unsettle the dressing room, especially for those vying for places in the starting side?

Upset

"It's a good question but, do you know what, they're always upset. And 26 to 34 are even more upset. While you have to consider everybody, we're in the business end of things now. Dublin are trying to do something that has never been done by any team in the history of the game.

"I think Jim made the decision for the team, and if Diarmuid Connolly can force his way up the pecking order, it will turn out to be a great decision." 

In pursuit of history, nothing can be left to chance. Dublin's time is now but they won't be the men of today forever. Caffrey won't be surprised if Dublin are back in the pack in the coming years.

"You go through the age profile: Stephen Cluxton, Cian O'Sullivan, James McCarthy, Michael Darragh Macauley, Bernard (Brogan), Kevin McManamon, Eoghan O'Gara, how much road is left in all of those fellas?

"As long as they're winning, everything is okay but once a defeat comes and a load of retirees come together, I think Dublin are going to be well back in the pack."

That is for another day. Caffrey believes that the championship only really starts now for Dublin.

"Kerry are coming at a rate of knots. I was at the league game and what really impressed me that night was that Eamonn Fitzmaurice was trying to win an All-Ireland and manufacture defenders to do jobs who didn't really have pace but the new batch the are coming in are going to match and surpass Dublin for pace eventually, whether it happens this year or not I'm not so sure but they are coming and when they come they will take over.

"Donegal are probably the most impressive team in what they have done and the football the have played. Michael Murphy is pound for pound the best player in Ireland this year."

Whatever happens from here, Caffrey believes Dublin will have done all they can.

"At the end of the year when it's done and dusted and the trophies are all handed out, the only thing you want to be sitting at a counter discussing with anybody is, 'Look, did we give ourselves the best chance?' and I think bringing Rory O'Carroll and Diarmuid Connolly back into the fold, late and all as it is … I think all the boxes are ticked in terms of yeah, we've given ourselves the best chance."

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