herald

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Jim: 'Please God Diarmuid will be back in blue'

Decision to leave Connolly out for most of league was 'in his best interests'

Dublin forward Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates
Dublin forward Ciarán Kilkenny celebrates

On Easter Sunday, Jim Gavin outed himself as a man of faith.

Either that or he's as unsure about the immediate sporting future of Diarmuid Connolly as everyone else.

No question has been asked more in GAA circles on both sides of the Liffey this past month since that brief public appearance in Castlebar on February 24 than 'what's the story with Diarmuid Connolly?'

Yesterday, sitting in the same seat in the media centre in Croke Park in which he has been asked that question repeatedly since then, Gavin supplied his most elaborate answer yet.

"His status at the moment is that both Diarmuid and I agreed that what was best was that he would take a rest over these games," he outlined.

"He has had a long number of years playing senior inter-county football, as have a lot of this group, and that decision was made in his best interests."

Asked then more directly whether Connolly would play for Dublin this summer, Gavin's answer was either deliberately vague or a request for divine intervention.

"Please God."

And that was it.

Damage

St Vincent's begin their Dublin SFC defence on Thursday April 12 against Skerries Harps in Parnell Park.

Connolly hasn't played for his club in their recent league games during his absence from the Dublin squad but a failure to line out in the championship would cast his participation with Dublin under serious doubt.

And though it finished yesterday with a fifth league title in six years, this spring has been noticeable for the degree of collateral damage Gavin's squad has suffered.

Bernard Brogan is highly unlikely to play again this year while Paul Flynn was not one of the 34 players used by Gavin in the League.

Cian O'Sullivan, as the Dublin manager explained yesterday, "had a procedure on his shoulder three weeks ago," adding: "unfortunately for his club, he won't make it back (for the Dublin SFC), but he will certainly be back for (Leinster) championship, that is for sure."

James McCarthy limped off yesterday (inset), too, with what appeared to be a quad injury, although Gavin had no precise diagnosis or update for us afterwards.

And though he was generally positive about Jack McCaffrey's recovery from the cruciate ligament injury he suffered in last year's All-Ireland SFC final, he stopped just short of issuing a return date.

"It's very positive news," he chirped.

"He's back on the grass again. That's really positive. As in he's running on the grass, if that makes sense.

"He's being very diligent with it. He's in great shape.

"Mentally, as bubbly as ever. He's looking forward to the championship," added the Dublin manager.

When it was put to Gavin that the weekend of May 26/2h - the scheduled date for their Leinster SFC opener with Offaly or Wicklow - would be too early to expect to see the 2015 Footballer of the Year, Gavin simply resorted to management-speak.

"Like any player coming back, they'd have to prove themselves," he stated.

"Purely based on performance. If they perform well in training in the lead-in...

"So, if any player comes back and performs well in our training session, they'll put their hand up for a slot."

Something Con O'Callaghan surprisingly did last week.

Surprise

Having won yet another All-Ireland with Cuala last Saturday in Portlaoise, O'Callaghan was a surprise addition to the Dublin bench in the number 15 jersey in which Paddy Andrews was officially named.

Asked whether he had anticipated such an early return for the reigning Young Footballer of the Year, Gavin admitted: "No, we just had a conversation."

O'Callaghan came on for Michael Darragh Macauley in the second half and looked sprightly and energised, despite his recent achievements.

"You just back off and there was no conversations at all over the last number of weeks," Gavin explained.

"We just let him concentrate fully with his club.

"We just touched base with him earlier in the week and had a chat.

"Obviously," Gavin went on, "he's possibly fitter - we've done very little work in that regard.

"I'd say he's a lot fitter than the current group of Dublin players and he was just keen to go.

"So it was just great to have him back," concluded the Dublin boss.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News