SELFLESS CONNOLLY CAN CONQUER THE ‘CASTLE-CAHILL.
BARRY CAHILL knows what it’s like to enter the Leinster club arena against Garrycastle, lumbered with favouritism, and to exit with nothing but regrets.
Three years ago, St Brigid’s embarked on a marathon odyssey through Dublin and Leinster, going week to week, eventually reaching the provincial final stage. There they faced the champions of Westmeath – and hit the wall, falling eight points adrift after 40 minutes.
Brigid’s heroically drew level only to succumb to a last-gasp Conor Cosgrove free.
“A hugely devastating defeat,” Cahill recalled this week. “The Christmas period was a hard one to take.”
This Sunday, it’s the turn of St Vincent’s to face Westmeath’s finest and the Leinster semi-final odds (1/8) are weighted totally in their favour. The All-Ireland holders have home advantage at Parnell Park; there’s a sense that they’re an even stronger unit now than last March … then there is the Diarmuid Connolly factor.
“Diarmuid has had a phenomenal last 18 months with club and county,” enthuses his former Sky Blue comrade, Cahill. “And we’ve seen with Vincent’s over the last few weeks that he’s able to put in a selfless performance as well. Teams have targeted him and sometimes put two or three players on him, and he’s aware of that and he’s able to bring other players into the game.
“In the county final, at some stage, I think Plunkett’s had three or four players on him. But he was able to draw them and then slip the ball to the likes of (Shane) Carthy and (Gavin) Burke and (Ciarán) Dorney, and these guys were able to get scores to get them over the line.
“So, even though Diarmuid is playing incredible football, he’s aware of his role within the team. And if him and Mossy Quinn are held, they have other options.” adds Cahill.
Garrycastle’s answer won his All Star ten years before Connolly: Dessie Dolan is now 35 but was still pivotal to victory in the county final against Mullingar Shamrocks and in their Leinster quarter-final against Longford’s Emmet óg of Killoe.
Cahill has marked him at inter-county level and pinpoints his “footballing brain” as Dolan’s standout quality.
“I mean, he’s not the biggest or the strongest – but he just gets on a lot of good ball in good areas and he uses it very intelligently,” he explains. “He is capable of playing either at 15 or 11. Very accurate from frees. He is still probably the fulcrum of their attack.”
But can Dolan halt the Marino juggernaut? “I don’t think so,” Cahill surmises. “There is that fear that maybe that complacency could set in, but Vincent’s are very strong all over the pitch.
“It’s very rare for a club team to have no real weaknesses, and they have 15 very good footballers. Particularly their half-back line … it would be as good as some county lines, with Brendan Egan from Sligo, Ger Brennan and Michael Concarr who could make an impact with the Dublin team in the next couple of years. So with the half-back line driving them on, you’d expect Vincent’s to win by five or six points.”