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Sunday 17 December 2017

Ger Brennan: 'Diarmuid Connolly works more than Messi'

Barca trip was an eye-opener for Brennan - but now sole St Vincent's focus is on Corofin

Ger Brennan
Ger Brennan
23 March 2013; Diarmuid Connolly, Dublin, in action against Peter Turley, Down. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Dublin v Down, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

GER BRENNAN has watched Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp.

And he has seen Diarmuid Connolly, time and again, sprinkle his on-field stardust for both Dublin and St Vincent's.  Which begs the question: is Connolly your Messi?  "Yeah he is. I think he works far harder than Messi, in fairness …

Tomorrow in Tullamore (2.0), St Vincent's epic club carousel ride continues with an All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Corofin of Galway.

Brennan has been an inspirational skipper for the Marino men these past two marathon campaigns. Connolly, meanwhile, has bordered on the mesmeric - never more tellingly than in last year's All-Ireland final.

Connolly scored 2-5 from play against Castlebar, had the final assist for another 2-2 and the key pass for another two points. But even those off-the-radar stats don't tell the full sumptuous story.

As St Vincent's successfully defended their county crown last autumn, Connolly provided countless more scoring and creative moments that took the breath away. In doing so, he was carrying on where he left off for the Dubs last summer.

Brennan knows, from crocked experience, how an extended club campaign can wreak havoc with the body. Yet Connolly, albeit a couple of years younger, made a seamless switch from club to county last spring. "Some lads are just freaks," Brennan surmises.

He accepts there is a danger of Connolly paying some physical price in the future, but clarifies: "Diarmuid is one of the minority of boys where the genetics are just spot on. He is not having too many serious knocks - obviously bumps and bruises along the way, which he manages really well."

Speaking of sporting freaks, Brennan found himself somewhat bemused by the body language of a certain Barca legend when his club jetted out for a team holiday following their Leinster win in December.

"We'd a good time in Barcelona for a few days, and everyone came back safe and sound," he reports. "We went to see Barcelona versus Cordoba - they won five-nil, and it was a great experience. Only two or three guys had been to the Nou Camp before, and it was nice to see the movement of the Barcelona players.

"Messi scored two - very lazy, actually didn't run anywhere!" he reveals. "Iniesta, Suarez, those type of guys worked particularly well … but Messi just seems to pick up the loose ends at the end."

Now, for Vincent's, it's a case of picking up the loose ends after a two-month competitive break. This is a challenge for every AIB All-Ireland club contender and there's the added complication of facing Corofin opponents who couldn't stop scoring as they blazed a trail through Galway and Connacht.

Seven years have passed since Brennan won his first All-Ireland club with the Vins. "I would certainly have noticed an uptake in the amount of training," he confirms. "With ourselves I would say that, in my experience, we are only two or three years behind Dublin in terms of what's being done.

INTENSITY

"The only difference might be the skill level or intensity level with inter-county. But the amount of training you are putting in, video sessions, tactical sessions and stuff like that, is all increasing."

Last question: would back-to-back confirm their standing as one of the club greats? "As a player, you try not to think about that. Certainly in our minds we are not defending anything. You can't re-win the 2014 St Patrick's Day club final, you can only win this one ... so we are pretty much always focussed on what's in front of us, which is Corofin."

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