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Sunday 4 December 2016

Ger's advice to Diarmuid: 'suck it up'

But he thinks Connolly's legacy is secure regardless of replay result

Former Dublin footballer Ger Brennan at AIG Insurance’s offices as the company has offered
Dublin supporters the chance to take advantage of discounted insurance which could save them up to 15pc on car and home policies. Log on to www.aig.ie/ dubs to get a quote. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Dublin footballer Ger Brennan at AIG Insurance’s offices as the company has offered Dublin supporters the chance to take advantage of discounted insurance which could save them up to 15pc on car and home policies. Log on to www.aig.ie/ dubs to get a quote. Photo: Sportsfile

Ger Brennan is intimately acquainted with the laws of the inter-county jungle.

As such, he sees no right or wrong. Just what any player - forward or back - can do to work the percentages in their favour.

Moral arguments don't sound well in losing speeches.

"Any forward is going to be targeted by a back, and that comes with the territory," he says, referring to the Diarmuid Connolly/Lee Keegan battle on which Saturday's All-Ireland SFC replay may conceivably hinge.

"Obviously, the better you are the more attention you are going to get and you can call it gamesmanship, or whatever you want to call it, I'm fine with that.

Protection

"And if he (Connolly) is getting that attention, then he has to suck it up and get on with it."

By fair means or foul, Keegan has been a greater and more consistent nullifying force on Connolly than any other direct opponent over the past few peak years of the Dublin man's career.

And the question of whether Connolly deserves greater protection from match officials is a blurry one with no defined answers.

The discretion of Maurice Deegan and, perhaps more pertinently, the involvement of his umpires, could have a significant bearing on the latest and crucial bout of football's most compelling duel.

Brennan notes how his St Vincent's and former Dublin colleague isn't "one for giving out to linesmen, referees or umpires," and speculates whether it's necessary for him to do so or whether "someone has to do that on his behalf".

"If he played a bit closer to the Mayo goalmouth for a couple of minutes," he muses, "maybe Keegan mightn't get away with as much of the pulling and dragging."

It would appear, however, that Connolly is damned either way.

He has been identified, with plenty of historical reason, as a player likely to react in a more forceful way to provocation than most.

"If someone is constantly pulling and dragging at you and the umpires or referees aren't going to take some sort of action to stamp it out, then eventually you have to stand your own ground," Brennan points out.

"The best way obviously to do it is to get the ball and stick it over the bar and set up key plays.

"When someone of Lee Keegan's calibre is marking you, it's a tougher challenge to get away from him.

"But that's the challenge that you have to step up to if you want to be one of the best players."

Connolly's most notable involvement in the drawn game was his late decision to shoot for a point from a sideline ball, despite just a single minute of the allotted seven of injury time remaining on the clock.

Brennan acknowledges that Connolly's chances of scoring from that range and angle are higher than almost anyone else, though he is certain that if faced with the same situation again, he would take a less aggressive tack.

"I know we're all mad for statistics these days and I had a look at statistics from sideline shots this year.

"I think there's been 18 sideline attempts in this year's Championship and 30 per cent of them have gone over. Which is a pretty low return," Brennan points out.

"So from Diarmuid's point of view - and where I was sitting - I was just with Mossie Quinn and we were behind it. And I kind of fancied him to get it.

"But I also said to myself, if it goes wide, based on David Clarke's previous three kick-outs, it's a score because he was under pressure himself. He had one or two poor kick-outs.

"But in fairness to Clarke, he got the ball out nice and quickly and Mayo went up and scored. Diarmo in hindsight should have kept the ball in play and ran down the clock.

"He probably wasn't thinking really," Brennan continues.

Instinct

"He plays off his instinct a lot of the time and it was just an instinctive shot for him and while 30 per cent of the 18 shots have gone over this year from sideline attempts, I'd say if he was to take 18 shots, he would gets 60 per cent of them, given the skill set he has."

Either way, Brennan is certain that Connolly's status as one of football's greats is secure.

"As a player, or as a defender, what excites me is to see a centre-forward working back or a corner-forward working back and tracking their man," he outlines. "Their man mightn't get the ball but the forward might have sprinted 50 or 60 yards to stop them getting the ball.

"And I think that's something that Diarmuid does an awful lot, and all the other Dublin players do as well, a lot of off-the-ball running.

"I think certainly he's certainly etched his name," Brennan said, "he's there among the greats and the legends."

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