Pull the other one: Connolly won't fall for ó Sé's cheap shot - Pillar
PILLAR Caffrey has defended Diarmuid Connolly's disciplinary record after Darragh Ó Sé suggested that the best way to stop the Dublin player was in the use of provocation.
"If anything, he has matured and improved in how to deal with this type of . . . intimidation is the only word you could use for it because that's what it is," Caffrey told the Herald.
Former Kerry midfielder Ó Sé intimated that there was "something to be said for pulling his tail and seeing if he'll hiss back at you".
"With a player as good as Connolly" he added," sometimes that's all you have left. A bit of don't-ask-don't-tell stuff off the ball."
However, Caffrey hit back, insisting: "This whole thing of trying to get into him...I think he's shown tremendous maturity and year on year, he's learned how to handle this.
"To be saying that you can get at a player, I think it's a bit disingenuous, to be honest."
Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey rejected the depiction of Diarmuid Connolly as "a cannon waiting to explode," and branded Darragh Ó Sé's suggestion that off-the-ball treatment might be the most effective methods of curtailing his influence as "disingenuous".
"I think for a Kerry man with such a great record to be coming out professing that this is a way to rattle the Dubs, I'd be a bit taken aback," the former Dublin manager told the Herald.
In his weekly newspaper column, Ó Sé pondered the subject of "how to get at Connolly," in an article discussing the wider topic of the value of stopping the opposition's best player.
Identifying Connolly as Dublin's "franchise player," Ó Sé writes: "To me, there's still a bit of a scamp in him."
"His temperament has got better over the years but I still think there's something to be said for pulling his tail and seeing if he'll hiss back at you.
"With a player as good as Connolly, sometimes that's all you have left. A bit of don't-ask-don't-tell stuff off the ball," the former Kerry midfielder continued
"See if his temper is as reformed as they say. It's nothing to be proud about but if you think a player has a weakness, you have a responsibility to find it."
Caffrey - who gave Connolly his Dublin debut in 2007 - feels that Ó Sé's suggestion is nothing particularly new or inventive and says the days of Connolly reacting to such provocation have passed.
"Every game that Diarmuid Connolly goes out, he's tested physically and mentally," said Caffrey, currently managing the Na Fianna senior team for a second time.
"If anything, he has matured and improved in how to deal with this type of ... intimidation is the only word you could use for it because that's what it is."
Moreover, Caffrey says attempts to physically bully Connolly are more mostly futile.
"This is not a small corner-forward that you're going to get in and physically intimidate," he pointed out.
"Diarmuid Connolly will match up to any player physically that he plays against. He's a big guy.
"So this whole thing of trying to get into him ... I think he's shown tremendous maturity and year on year, he's learned to handle this. To be saying that you can get at a player, I think it's a bit disingenuous, to be honest.
"You see the spin that Mayo have been putting out about Aidan O'Shea. Or Donegal have been putting out about Michael Murphy.
"This stuff about, 'because they're big units, referees let them take a bit more physical abuse than a smaller player'.
"It's probably the same with Connolly. He's 6'2. I'm sure he's 14 stone-plus. He's in massive shape.
"But the game has changed. Referees have the armoury now, especially in the big games now in Croke Park. Nobody's going to get away with clocking fellas off the ball.
"We've already had the sledging being highlighted this year. You have to look at Diarmuid Connolly's record and the number of inter-county games he has played.
"I don't believe that Diarmuid Connolly can be got at and I don't believe that Diarmuid Connolly is this loose cannon waiting to explode. I think he's far too mature."
Already this year, Cork's Jamie O'Sullivan has served a suspension for a late hit on Connolly in the League final and Jim Gavin - whilst not addressing that incident or either player specifically - revealed at the time his suspicion that "we are seeing players being targeted".
Pat Gilroy - under whom Connolly won his first All-Ireland in 2011 - broached the subject of greater protection for his St Vincent's clubmate in 2012, after he had been sent off in the Leinster semi-final against Wexford.
"He shouldn't have done it and he knows he shouldn't have done it, but, at the same time, there are certain things that happen in games and he was thrown to the ground just before that," he said then.
"You'd wonder how umpires saw him doing what he did and not what the other guy did."
Caffrey reckons that Connolly has long seen the bigger picture though, and knows both the value and consequences of his actions.
"He knows that he's going to get another couple of opportunities over the next few years to win an All-Ireland or two and it's up to him to remain on the field and I have no doubt but that he'll do that," Caffrey insisted.
"Connoisseurs of football in Dublin would put him up there with the best that have ever played for Dublin in terms of his ability and, I would have to say, in terms of how often he's delivered for Dublin.
"On the big days, Diarmuid Connolly has stood up and delivered for Dublin," he concluded.