Deep down we all knew once the Leinster SFC got underway and Diarmuid Connolly wasn’t in the Dublin panel that the likelihood of him making a grandiose return was slim to none.
Despite Jim Gavin’s repeated sentiment that the Dublin camp has a year-round open door policy, once Rory O’Carroll returned on the eve of Championship and Connolly didn’t, the writing was on the wall.
What we already knew has been all but confirmed now following reports that Connolly is set to go Stateside once again this summer where he will pick up the mantle with Donegal Boston and look to secure his second Boston SFC in as many years.
Despite the fact it’s been sixteen months since Connolly has pulled on the sky blue jersey, confirmation of his departure is still headline news such is the talent he possesses coupled with the fact that it was less than three years ago he was being touted as the best footballer in Ireland.
Unfortunately, this latest trip to America would seem to signal the end of his inter-county career, it’s hard to envision Connolly missing out on four and five in a row yet return for number six at the age of 33.
Connolly is gone for the second year running and to be honest, we are none the wiser as to why one of the country’s most gifted athletes isn’t competing at the highest level.
There’s no point speculating as to what might have happened Connolly, all we have to go on is Jim Gavin’s sentiment that Dublin have an open door policy meaning Connolly has decided to forego joining the panel in their drive for five.
However, who are the ones losing out with Connolly’s absence?
The truth is that despite his obvious talents, Dublin don’t miss the St. Vincent’s man one iota.
Let’s examine their six starting forwards from last year’s All-Ireland final win. Niall Scully scored a goal in that final and has proven his worth over the past two seasons. A lot of Scully’s work goes unseen and he is arguably their best player at linking defence with attack.
Con O’Callaghan has won all there is to win in the last two years and provides a bit of spark that is hard to do without while Brian Howard looks like a mainstay for the next 10 to 12 years.
Dean Rock kicked 0-7 in last year’s final and despite being injured for the early part of this season, proved his worth in Sunday’s Leinster final against Meath. Ciaran Kilkenny was the championship’s top-scorer from play in 2018 while Paul Mannion is in the form of his life and looks to have taken on the role as Dublin’s most valuable forward.
Add Cormac Costello to that list who has kicked 1-24 in Dublin’s three championship games to date and was most definitely their best player during the league campaign.
Who do you drop for Diarmuid Connolly? It’s a tough call to make and while the St. Vincent’s man may well still be worthy of a place in that starting XV, Dublin should complete the five-in-a-row whether he’s part of the panel or not.
So no, it’s not Jim Gavin or Dublin who are losing out by Connolly’s ‘self-enforced’ exile, it’s you!
You, me and the man walking his dog down Drumcondra are all losing out by not being able to witness greatness within greatness because that’s what Connolly was when he was with Dublin… Great.
A great player making a great team even greater. It’s sad to think that his sky blue journey looks to be finished and our overriding memory of arguably this generation’s most gifted player is him being slapped with a three-month ban for what was ultimately a minor infraction (I’m not condoning laying hands on officials but he was definitely made an example off).
Of course, we can only assume that Diarmuid Connolly is content enough to walk away at the height of his powers and miss out on being a vital cog in what is a history-making football team.
At the end of the day, Connolly doesn’t have to answer to anybody. He’s an amateur athlete who was held to a professional standard. If he doesn’t want to play by those rules anymore then that’s fine.
If he’s happy seeing out the remaining years of his career as a ‘what could’ve been’ type of player that’s fine.
It just sucks we won’t get to see him create the history that his obvious talents deserve.