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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Captain Conn' has Clery Cup in his sights

'I was massively disappointed last year' says Dubs ace Diarmo

Diarmuid Connolly
Diarmuid Connolly

There was a while there when Diarmuid Connolly was plastered in the centerfold of the national GAA consciousness.

Usually in a jersey ripped from neck to navel.

Whether it was the Punch-and-Judy act with Lee Keegan, his decision to shoot from that sideline in the dying throes of the drawn All-Ireland SFC final or his no-frills execution of Dublin's penalty in the replay, Connolly was the chief item in most Gaelic football conversations for about a month.

"All I wanted to do was put the ball dead," he explains now of his modus operandi in injury-time in the final that ended level.

Precision

"We could set up for the kick-out, which actually didn't happen. We were too slow for the kick-out. They ended up getting it off short and they went up and scored a point.

"But I wouldn't say it was regrettable. But maybe I should have kept possession of the ball, in hindsight."

It didn't cost him a second's thought afterwards.

Nor did the magnitude of the penalty he struck with such precision past Mayo keeper David Clarke.

"I was the designated penalty-taker for Dublin this year so I practiced every single time I went out on the training field.

"I knew where I was going to put it, if it was going to happen.

"You can't play the occasion. It's a spot kick. It's you against the 'keeper."

As it happens, Brian Fenton got Connolly's vote for Footballer of the Year ("Fento's the man").

And tongue-in-cheek, he attributes all those torn jersies to faulty design.

"V-necks. I think they're just a bit weak at that point."

Now, Connolly's exploits are more localised.

On Saturday in Parnell Park (3.0), he'll try to win a fourth Dublin title (2007, 2013, 2014) to go with his fourth All-Ireland (2011, 2013, 2015, 2016) against a team he has never played against at any level.

"It's a different challenge in that sense because most of the teams you play in the last rounds of the championship you know from over the years, you know their players, their systems but Caslteknock are a different animal that way," Connolly points out.

And if there are a few enough boxes left for Connolly to tick on his footballing 'to do' list, captaining his club to a county title is an obvious one.

"Obviously I was massively disappointed not to be able to go up and lift the cup up for the club and bring it back," he notes of defeat to Ballyboden St Enda's in last year's decider in his first season as captain.

"It's been a big target of mine for the last 12 months to get back to where we are.

"And hopefully," he concludes, "walk up the steps of Parnell Park on Saturday afternoon and bring that cup (Clery Cup) back to St Vincent's."

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