It may not have been the fairytale return most Dublin fans expected last weekend but nevertheless Diarmuid Connolly returned to championship action against Tyrone after his twelve week ban expired.
Granted it was a cameo appearance, but still it was, as most people now expect, a precursor to Connolly rejoining the starting 15 that will face Mayo on September 17th as Dublin go in search of their third consecutive All Ireland.
Well if nothing else that’s the opinion of former Dublin forward Alan Brogan.
In his Herald/Independent column, Brogan reveals his belief that Dublin boss Jim Gavin sent the Vincents man on with minutes to go in the Semi Final simply to bring to an end to the circus surrounding Diarmuid’s suspension and clear the air ahead of the biggest game of the year.
And the Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh man is convinced that starting Connolly in the Final will be the only switch Gavin will make.
“Dublin are winning games so easily at the moment it’s hard for any one to crack that team.” Brogan writes.
“Four of the forwards who started in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final were on the bench against Tyrone last Sunday.”
“Two-thirds of the attack replaced within a year and after winning an All-Ireland without anyone really noticing.”
“The only change I’d anticipate now is Diarmuid Connolly coming back in to start the final.”
This is the level the Dublin Panel have reached with their now famous ‘process’ and it’s reaping the benefits in all parts of the pitch, which was even more apparent defensively against their Ulster opponents.
“Any time a Tyrone runner bombed on from their defence on Sunday, a Dublin man went with him all the way until he stopped.”
“It’s something Dublin will carry into the final, too.”
With respect to the men that have carried Dublin’s hope right through the Championship since Connolly was suspended, Brogan again believes that Gavin has done most of his experimenting now and will make his decision based, as always, on the consistent performances both on the pitch and in training.
The Dublin manager will have made some tough decisions on players like Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan, both back from injury and in form, but still not featuring for throw in, while this year’s find, one Con O’Callaghan from Cuala, has used the opportunities dealt to him well despite having a quiet enough start.
“He was anonymous against Carlow in the first round of the Championship, but played the full game and once he put that performance in against Kildare, that cemented his place in the team.”
“He was given the allowance of having a bad game along the way and Jim’s faith in him has been more than repaid at this stage.”
In relation to his younger brother, Alan believes that the game has once again changed and the ferocity of Dublin’s pace may not suit Bernard anymore. But with Jim, most of the risks he has taken in the last few years have paid off. And this is not unlike any other call that’s been made. there may still be a need for the All Star to join the frey.
“If Mayo go man-to-man and push up in the final, it could leave space in front of their full-back line, the sort of room Bernard would revel in if he gets quick and accurate ball.” he admits.
But when all is said and done, every facet, every thought, every decision, Alan believes, has all the panel exactly where Jim wants them to be coming into another challenging Championship Final. Perfectly orchestrated, just when it matters.
“Big-name players aren’t just fighting amongst themselves to get into the team, they’re trying to outdo each other to make sure they’re one of the subs that actually gets used on the big days.”