“I remember watching him and thinking to myself, ‘he’s found a new lease of life here.’ He was taking on guys, going for the juggler every time.”
Connolly was torn between his two former teammates as Dublin won their sixth All-Ireland title in succession and their eighth in 10 years.
Unbelievably, the two-time All-Star winner never actually won the ‘Footballer of the Year’ award himself, despite being one of Dublin’s most talented footballers over the last decade.
“For me, Ciarán Kilkenny just pips it,” Connolly said when speaking to Boylesports.
“He played in five championship games for Dublin – and I know the amount of influence he has out the field – but he changed up his game this year.”
🏐 "He has never lost a game for his county which is unbelievable!"
— BoyleSports (@BoyleSports) January 25, 2021
The St. Vincents man was very impressed with how Kilkenny adapted and thrived in his new role at 14.
“I remember watching him and thinking to myself, ‘he’s found a new lease of life here.’ He was taking on guys, going for the juggler every time,” Connolly continued.
“He scored an average of five points a game this year for Dublin and when we really needed him second-half – Paddy Durcan went off with an injury at half-time in the final and I thought he was doing pretty well on Ciarán at the start – may be the breaks weren’t going for him that much.”
Connolly went on to say that the player’s second-half performance in the final was a key factor in his final choice.
Sublime pass by Diarmuid Connolly here to set up a Ciarán Kilkenny point! pic.twitter.com/gg7Tabwqls
— The GAA (@officialgaa) September 14, 2019
Diarmuid Connolly’s Ciarán Kilkenny pick narrowly beat Raheny’s Brian Fenton, to whom he gave an honourable mention.
“I have to speak about Brian Fenton as well, he’s just a colossal,” he commented.
“He’s never lost a game for Dublin which is unbelievable, himself and John Small. I actually met Small the other day and he was telling me he was the same but nobody ever gives him that accolade so had to throw that out there!”
Fenton won the 2018 Footballer of the Year award which was something Connolly factored into his final decision.