Wednesday 12 December 2018

Diarmuid Connolly's Dublin mystery deepens

Dual star ends absence with shock appearance in St Vincent's hurling game

Last night, Connolly was introduced around the three-quarter mark at wing-forward and looked in reasonably good shape. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Last night, Connolly was introduced around the three-quarter mark at wing-forward and looked in reasonably good shape. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rónan MacLochlainn

The mystery surrounding Diarmuid Connolly's absence from the Dublin senior football squad deepened last night when he made a surprise return to competitive action with the hurlers of St Vincent's.

His shock appearance for his club hurlers comes only 24 hours after Dublin football manager Jim Gavin confirmed the talismanic forward was not currently part of his squad, although he didn't dismiss the possibility of a return later this summer.

The Dublin boss was quick to stress to those speculating about reasons for the player's absence that there was a "duty of care" to be shown to an amateur player.

"The situation is that Diarmuid just hasn't been available to play football and hurling with his club, and with the county as well," the manager said at Thursday's launch of the Leinster Football Championship in Trim.

"We respect that position, and hopefully everyone does as well. It is an amateur sport, but that said, the door will always be open for Diarmuid, and I know for sure with the club and also the county. Hopefully, we'll see him back playing Gaelic games soon."

Connolly was listed on the starting teamsheet for St Vincent's Dublin SFC opener against Skerries Harps last month, but he didn't play in that game nor in their second game last weekend against Na Fianna.

In the circumstances, eyebrows will be raised by his appearance as a second-half substitute for the club's hurlers in their Dublin hurling league Division 1 encounter against Craobh Chiaráin at Páirc Naomh Uinsionn last night.

There has been much speculation about the five-time All-Ireland winner in recent months as he has failed to appear for club and county since being used as a second-half substitute in Dublin's league victory over Mayo in Castlebar on February 24.

While his absence from county colours was not unexpected, Connolly's failure to line out for St Vincent's in hurling and football championship fixtures raised concerns over his future availability for club and county.

This latest development is sure to fuel more speculation, with the fact that he lined out with the hurlers bound to prompt some to suggest he could be in line to join Dublin's hurlers, currently under the guidance of his clubmate Pat Gilroy.

Last night, Connolly was introduced around the three-quarter mark at wing-forward and looked in reasonably good shape as St Vincent's eased to a comfortable 1-18 to 1-11 victory.

Whether his return is a prelude to a reappearance for Dublin remains to be seen but after so much negative conjecture in recent months, it can only be seen as a positive development in terms of his future plans.

Big focus on hurling in RTÉ schedule

Armchair hurling fans appear to be the big winners with the new-look provincial championships in Leinster and particularly Munster featuring heavily in the schedule of live games released by RTÉ yesterday.

Seven of the 11 Munster championship matches will feature live on the national broadcaster, matching the figure of football games being shown – out of 29 ties across all four provinces – including all four finals.

RTÉ will show three Leinster hurling championship games, including the final.

It is a significant scaling down of provincial football coverage with just three games – the Mayo/Galway Connacht quarter-final in Castlebar next week, an Ulster semi-final featuring Fermanagh/Armagh against Tyrone/Monaghan, and a Leinster semi-final involving Meath/Longford or Dublin/Wicklow/Offaly being shown outside the quartet of provincial finals.

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