The refreshingly honest post Leinster Final interview with Westmeath manager Tom Cribbin was both surprising and once again highlighted a constant ploy by teams who face Dublin to target some of Jim Gavin’s players who would be deemed to have a short fuse, particularly Diarmuid Connolly.
Connolly unfortunately in his younger days had a habit of reacting to provocation and teams have been targeting him for special treatment for many years now in an effort to get him sent off.
Connolly to his credit has mainly kept his temperament in check in recent seasons despite the off the ball attention he has received, but the non stop provocation which is mainly ignored by the officials, can sometimes test Diarmuid’s patience and the red mist can descend.
The targeting of Connolly during the Leinster Final was one such occasion and a coming together with Westmeath’s James Dolan was followed up minutes later with another flashpoint which seen Connolly grabbing Dolan around the neck and flinging him to the ground.
Typically because the incident involved a Dublin player and particularly Connolly,
it was highlighted on the Sunday Game and got a week of articles in the national press and online media sites.
Funny how these same media outlets barely, if at all, mentioned the kick to Connolly’s head by Meath’s Graham Reilly in the semi final or the punch thrown by Mickey Burke at Ciaran Kilkenny in the same game.
And there lies some of the main problems, certain Dublin players can be kicked and provoked all through a game and that seems acceptable to officials and the media, but once Dublin players react to this provocation, the media starts a witch-hunt calling for bans and it becomes headline news.
It’s now the business end of the season and all teams left at this stage will looking for any advantage they can get over the opponents they will face and unfortunately for Connolly, his reaction to James Dolan in the Leinster Final will not have gone unnoticed by opposing managers or players and they will test Diarmuid’s temperament to the max from here on in.
Jim Gavin will obviously have a quiet word with Connolly about keeping his discipline and the player himself will know and expect what’s going to come from opposing teams.
It’s hard enough to win back to back All Ireland’s with 15 players on the pitch and even more so down a player and Connolly will be well aware of this, but in the red hot heat of championship battle, keeping the head under severe provoking, can sometimes be easier said than done.