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Monday 21 August 2017

Connolly return to centre stage?

The return of Diarmuid a key decision for management

Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley powers through the heart of the Monaghan defence following his introduction last Saturday.
Pics: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Michael Darragh Macauley powers through the heart of the Monaghan defence following his introduction last Saturday. Pics: Sportsfile

By the time we had reached half-time in Croke Park last Saturday evening, it's fair to say that most Dublin supporters were already turning their attention to the threat that Tyrone would pose at the semi-final stage rather than any possibility of an unlikely Monaghan comeback.

While Dublin were never truly tested, it was still encouraging to see the return of Jonny Cooper with the Na Fianna player showing few ill-effects from his recent injury and adding a greater steel to the Dublin defence.

Equally, seeing both Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn contribute on the pitch was encouraging and the three-week break should give them added time to regain the sharpness lost by their season-threatening injuries.

However, it is the likely return of Diarmuid Connolly that will prompt the greatest discussion with the St Vincent's player eligible after his 12-week suspension following his minor altercation with linesman Ciarán Branagan in Dublin's SFC opener against Carlow.

If Connolly is to return to the fray, and it is a big if that he's handed a starting berth from the off against Tyrone, where would his qualities best be served to Dublin's benefit.

Many observers have long recognised a natural suitability for midfield in Connolly and Dublin have struggled to find a long-term partner to complement the Brian Fenton. Playing in that position could give Connolly a degree of freedom that you fail to receive further up the field and his aerial ability, strength in possession and passing ability could prove pivotal in unlocking a highly-organised Tyrone defence.

However, James McCarthy gave his most compelling display to date in that position on Saturday evening and one would suspect that he'll retain the role irrespective of Connolly's return to the fray.

Another option would be to place him closer to goal, ideally at full-forward, as Dublin are not blessed at present with long-ball options if you discount the brief cameos of Eoghan O'Gara against Westmeath and Monaghan.

Either way, he needs to be centrally involved as you don't leave a Ferrari, albeit a cantankerous one, in the garage!

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