The question on everyone’s lips about Diarmuid Connolly in the last week can only be answered by one man

 

 

There’s absolutely no denying that 2019 could be a monumental year in the GAA. Particularly if Jim Gavin’s Senior Footballers pull off what everyone expects them to. Capturing their fifth consecutive All Ireland Football Championship.

But lets not forget that in 2014, when everyone expected Dublin to win their second consecutive title, their world came crashing down around them. We all think we can write the script, but nothing in Gaelic Games is ever set in stone.

Last year, before Stephen Cluxton had even climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand to raise the Sam Maguire aloft, the phrase “The Drive For Five” had replaced “The Roar For Four” and was already apart from it’s infancy. It had become the new mantra for the thousands of faithful Dublin supporters who are still caught in the current whirlwind of success. And since their last championship defeat to Donegal in 2014, this group of players have faced everything that has been thrown at them with pin point perfection. And all the while never taking their eye off the job in hand, one game at a time. What they’ve already achieved is enormous. What they could still achieve doesn’t bear thinking about.

In 2017, Diarmuid Connolly came off the bench in Dublin’s All Ireland Final win over Mayo. And many believe that had it not been for his performance, or more so his influence on the game that afternoon, Dublin fans may today be looking for a different mantra than anything with five in the phrase.

Did his raw talent turn him against his passion?

Conolly was the cornerstone of Jim Gavin’s tribe. We’re yet to see a player as naturally gifted and talented as the St. Vincent’s club man. And with such talent comes attention of all kinds. Such was Connolly’s sheer skill, power and pace, it put him under a microscope. Scrutinised by both the media and of course every willing opponent of the boys in blue.

For whatever his reason, Diarmuid skirted around the fringes of the Dublin panel for the early parts of the 2018 season, and before the Championship got up and running he had spread his wings, taking himself to Boston. There he kept his touch sharp continuing his football. Fans kept a close eye on the media, wondering if the legendary attacker would return before it got to the business end of the inter county season. But alas it never unfolded. Dublin continued their dominance and successfully claimed their fourth consecutive title. And they did it without him.

Dublin continue to produce talent at every opportunity

Jim Gavin’s ethos has never been about any individual player, and frankly it never will be. Losing Connolly could have had a detrimental effect both in the dressing room and on the pitch. But you only have to look at how the loss of other marquee players had not dented the juggernaut that is the panel as a whole.

When Rory O’Carroll stepped away after Dublin reclaiming the Championship in 2015, many believed it would be impossible to replace the powerful Kilmacud Crokes defender. But in Jonny Cooper, Michael Fitzsimons and Philly McMahon, Gavin had options beyond just one player.

Jack McCaffrey took a year out before the 2016 Championship. John Small and Eric Lowndes were perfectly capable as replacements and the team didn’t falter.

Every year Jim Gavin has managed to find at the very least, one new rising star. And all of them have grown with the confidence and support of the tightest bunch of players around them. Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully, Brian Howard and Eoin Murchan have broken into the team and their influence has already made them household names.

Howard himself was name checked by Connolly in an interview as “one to watch”.

Paddy Small was introduced briefly last year, and there’s no doubt he will be seen again in 2019. Cormac Costello and Colm Basquel will be digging deep to prove their influence too.

But the question still remains, do Dublin need Diarmuid Connolly? Does Diarmuid Connolly need Dublin?

Of all the players who have pulled the blue jersey over their head, countless time, Diarmuid Connolly certainly owes Dublin nothing. Is it now a dream, that will stay a dream? To see Diarmuid step back onto the Croke Park turf during a Championship.

There’s literally only one man that can answer that question. And until he does, it’s business as usual