Thursday 18 January 2018

Diarmuid Connolly: 'I'm a lucky player'

Dublin and St Vincent's talisman counts himself very lucky to be on 'great' teams

Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, in action against Neil McAdam, Monaghan
Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, in action against Neil McAdam, Monaghan

"TALENT will only get you so far in sport," says Diarmuid Connolly, sounding almost as if he's had that particular maxim branded into his psyche.

"Talent and hard work wins medals."

The belated irony is that that same line was once held aloft as a kind of prophecy that Connolly's prodigious talent might go somewhat unfulfilled during that early spot in his career when his reputation had yet to reconcile with his output for the Dublin senior footballers.


At the time, anyone who had even a flirting interest with Dublin GAA was aware of Connolly's ability, his skill levels in both football and hurling and his natural physical attributes.

Now, he resides permanently in those 'who is the best footballer in the country?' debates.

The short explanation is that at just 18 years of age, he hadn't yet the experience or wherewithal to fully establish his talents on the inter-county stage, though the arrival of two clubmates, Pat Gilroy and Mickey Whelan, to top office in Dublin obviously helped with his acclimatisation.

"I don't know if it was any easier," he recalls.

"I actually played with Pat in his final years with the Vincent's senior team and we were lucky enough to win a Dublin Championship, a Leinster Championship and an All-Ireland in that year.

"It was a bit of a shock, to be honest, that he was asked to do the county management afterwards.

"But yeah, he helped me along the way.

"He was a guy I could actually speak to, not only on a management basis, but also as a friend.

"We had a good friendship - we still do.

"So maybe a little bit easier that way but you get pressure from the other side of things as well.

"You get pressure to perform and you have to do the rest of the stuff."

Yet even since Gilroy's departure and Jim Gavin's arrival, Connolly has kicked on again to higher levels of performance and much greater consistency.

The latter made him vice-captain, though it's not a role Connolly is inclined to overplay

"We have plenty of leaders in our group. You can call on any one of 15 or 20 guys in that panel to be a leader," he says.


"I was asked just to help Stephen out in his capacity as captain and anything Jim has asked of me, I have tried to do it to the best of my ability.

"But it's not a big burden. It's just a title, or whatever you want to call it."

The Footballer of the Year award, for which Connolly was nominated last year but which went to James O'Donoghue, is "not a focus of mine. I just try and go out and win every game and try and help the players around me be as best as we can."

And he says, for what it's worth, that he enjoys the challenge of dismantling those defences constructed to negate talent like his.

Yet just a year ago, Connolly and Ger Brennan stood as champions of all they surveyed.

Both had won county, province and National titles with St Vincent's.

Both followed it up with League, provincial and national honours in Dublin jerseys and nothing, it seems, could they touch without it turning silver.

"You just try to be humble in victory and defeat. But we go out to win every game.

"But maybe I'm lucky in that I'm part of a great team in St Vincent's and a great team with Dublin over the last three or four years.

"Just very lucky to be involved with those teams. I don't think complacency comes into it. If you get too big for your boots, you'll be brought right back down to ground level.

"You saw what happened against Corofin this year. We were red hot favourites going into that game. I don't think we took our eye off the ball any little bit.


"But we were defeated that day. We're here promoting the club Championships for the coming season and we have 30 or 35 players who are still fighting for places there and still turning up and still wanting to win the Dublin Championship."

As outlined, this season is a little different.

Vincent's may have done back-to-back in Dublin and indeed, Leinster but came a cropper in the All-Ireland semi-final. Ditto Dublin against Donegal.

"I think every defeat with club or county is equally hard to take to be honest with you," he outlines.

"I'm a competitive guy. I like to go out and I like to win and compete in every game. Obviously it's an All-Ireland semi-final and it is hard to take at the time but we're just looking forward now."

An equally pertinent enquiry, though, is whether the leaking of one season into another and yet another has left him fatigued.

"No, I don't get tired," Connolly insists.

"I actually love playing football, especially on a sunny day like today.

"I'm very lucky," he continues.

"I've never broken a bone in my body in my life.

"I've never pulled a muscle. I've only ever had a couple of soft tissue injuries.

"I think a lot of preparation and prehab and recovery comes into your play when you are playing for such a long period.

"I don't think it has much of an effect," Connolly concludes. "Not on me anyway."

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