Dublin door not closed on Diarmuid Connolly
By John Harrington
Dublin football team selector Declan Darcy says Diarmuid Connolly will be welcomed back into the panel if he decides to commit for the 2019 campaign.
Connolly opted out this year and instead spent the summer playing Gaelic Football in Boston where he won a Senior Football Championship with the Donegal Boston club.
When asked today whether the door was closed on Connolly returning to the Dublin panel next year when they will attempt to win a fifth All-Ireland title in a row, Darcy insisted it wasn’t.
“No, absolutely not,” he said. “Diarmuid, we have the highest regard for Diarmuid and we back him 110%.
“He’s due back in two weeks, if he’s playing to form, he’s happy, he wants to be part of the group and we feel he can fit into the group then absolutely.
“There are no issues from our end towards Diarmuid. Again, it’s an amateur sport. There are no having to do things, it’s all about choices.
“He decided this year that he needed to take a little bit of time away, and he should have been allowed that, and we allowed him to do that.
“There’s no…Jack McCaffrey left us, Rory O’Carroll left us, the same rules would apply to those players as Diarmuid.
“If he comes back, we have an awful lot of loyalty towards him, we have fought hard battles with Diarmuid.”
It’s a testament to how much this Dublin team has evolved that they managed to comfortably defeat Tyrone in yesterday’s All-Ireland Final without the services of what were until fairly recently regarded as their three best forwards – Diarmuid Connolly, Bernard Brogan, and Paul Flynn.
Flynn was an unused substitute and Brogan didn’t even make the match-day panel even though he had made an unexpected return to action in the All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final Phase 3 match against Roscommon just six months after rupturing a cruciate ligament.
It would have been an incredible achievement for him to play in an All-Ireland Final so soon after suffering such an injury, but Dublin manager Jim Gavin was never likely to factor sentiment into his decision-making when selecting his panel of 26 for the All-Ireland final.
“We don’t do sentiment,” said Darcy. “That does not wash with us. But we do acknowledge that he is a phenomenal player.
“He has been a phenomenal player for us and we did acknowledge the massive effort he made to come back.
“He broke all the records to get to where he was. He was disappointed but at the same time we had to pick the 26 we felt were going to do the best for the team and we felt that the 26 we picked were the ones that were going to do that and unfortunately Bernard did not fit into that.
“He was not that far off it; he was just another couple of weeks.
“You still have to be very respectful of players like Bernard and what he has given to the county and the jersey and you can’t ignore that but also the value he brings to the dressing room can’t be underestimated.
“Just to see, even for ourselves, him there and his input was huge yesterday. Because at the end of the day we just want to get across the line and he was fantastic.”
Brogan will turn 35 next year but Darcy wouldn’t be surprised if he was back for a 13th season of senior inter-county football in 2019.
“What I’d say again is, I wouldn’t underestimate the enjoyment of the group – they excel at what they’re doing and it would be very hard to step away from the group.
“Yeah, I think it would be very challenging for any player to step away.
“There is such camaraderie within the group, it’s unbelievable, they really enjoy what they do.
“And I think it would be very difficult for anyone to step away, especially in the context of what they are likely to be chasing next year.”