herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Ross sets sights on the road ahead

Dublin midfielder is driven to bolt down a permanent place in Blues’ engine room

ROSS McCONNELL was probably the only Dublin person in Croke Park on September 18 willing referee Joe McQuillan to add on another minute at the end of the game.

It's not that the big St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh man has sadistic tendencies or even a lust for high drama, it's just that he was perched on the sideline waiting to be brought on when the Cavan ref gave that last blast of his whistle.

“I was on the verge of getting on,” he told the Herald at the announcement of the Dublin team to play Mayo this morning, “I was hoping the ref would play a bit longer! But it just meant I was the first on the pitch to celebrate…”

McConnell's contribution to the All-Ireland success was confined to substitute appearances and testing the mettle of the ‘A' midfield during internal training matches so while the rest of the football landscape wonders aloud whether Dublin lack the motivation of other years in 2012, his is very clearly defined.

“I have played every sort of championship game except an All-Ireland final, so that's my motivation,” he asserted.

“It's different for everyone. New guys coming into the squad, it's new to them and they're mad for action.

“Guys who were on the panel last year but didn't get much gametime, they want to play. And guys who played, want to hold onto their place on do it again.

“Once you win an All-Ireland, it's something you have but it's not something that changes your life,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It was great going back to the club and we got to a final so it put any celebrations on hold. Lads in the club would give you a good wakeup call if you were getting too big for your boots. But the |All-Ireland…it seems so far away to comprehend it really.”

Encouragingly for his first team prospects, McConnell already has a leg-up on last year in that he is, for the first time in 18 months, fully fit.

Nursing a tendon injury close to his hamstring since late 2010, he was forced to ‘mind' the leg all last year, meaning vital fitness work was missed and his preparations, curtailed.

He explained: “This year, it's much better to be coming in fresh and you

get the benefit of having your January training sessions. That's your backbone for the year.”

And so he finds himself in Dublin's starting midfield pairing for the first two games of their league campaign.

With Dennis Bastick injured and Eamon Fennell suspended, his partnership with Michael Darragh Macauley has another chance to prove its worth and after a middle-third second-half strangulation at the hands of Kerry a week ago, the duo are eager to make immediate ammeds.

“There are learning points to take out of it,” McConnell insists. “Stuff we want to improve on. What was it? It was like any game you lose, it's a combination of different factors.

“We were in a good enough position in the first half and then Kerry turned it on its head.

STRONG

“But after every game whether we win or we lose, we look back on the match and see what we did well and what we didn't do well. For the Kerry game, there was obviously much more we didn't do well.”

On the subject of tomorrow's clash with Mayo, McConnell surmised: “Mayo are very strong around the middle and it should be a great test but how much progress can you make in a week? We'll see. Since we started getting consistent league wins over the last couple of years, it's been down to focusing on all the different facets of our performance rather than the win itself,” he continued. “

“If we can go from playing the game to seeing what we did well and try to improve, we'll be going in the right direction.

“You're obviously trying to go out and win every game but there has to be a purpose to it and there has to be a gameplan. That's the way we treat every game. Look back, improve, do it again.”

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