Connolly class shines through

1. Diarmuid Connolly is a top-class footballer

Connolly class shines through

On his day, and in the right zone, Diarmuid Connolly is a stunning footballer.

He had been the most impressive player on the field, and had already contributed 0-2 from play and been involved in both of the St Vincents goals when he just took over the entire game.

He went from being very good, to sublime. His second-half display was an exhibition of powerful forward play and genuine leadership. And boy, was he enjoying his football.

The score was 1-11 to Castlebar, and 2-7 for St Vincents, after a Danny Kirby goal for Castlebar, when the Dublin star took his game into overdrive and totally stamped his class on the contest.

From centre-forward, he scored 2-3 on the trot, without reply, to leave Castlebar shell-shocked.

All his points were of a very high quality and his second goal off his left foot was a real rocket which gave the impressive Ciarán Naughton no chance.

Lots of players dream of being the star of the show in an All-Ireland final, club or county, and the 2014 All-Ireland club football final will forever more be remembered as the Diarmuid Connolly masterclass.

Rarely if ever, do you see one man make such a massive contribution for his team.

It is reasonable to say that if Connolly was lining out with the Mitchels yesterday, they would be All-Ireland champions today instead of the Marino men.

2. Change a defender if he is getting cleaned out

The damage that Connolly was inflicting on the Mitchels was there to be seen from an early stage.

He was able to do as he wanted without a hand being put on him and the more the game went on, the more his confidence rose, until he appeared invincible by the final whistle.

It seemed really strange that the Castlebar manager Pat Holmes did not try someone else on Connolly as his marker Eoghan O’Reilly could do nothing to stop him.

Holmes may have felt his options were very limited and county player Tom Cunniffe was doing very well on an out-of-sorts Mossie Quinn, however, for me, that was the obvious change.

The early loss of Richie Feeney did not help his options but Pat should have shunted someone else onto Connolly much earlier to try and lessen his all-consuming influence.

Even if he had to withdraw a corner-forward and put two players in directly trying to close down Connolly, it was a call that had to be made.

Ironically Holmes himself has been the victim before of a player going into orbit in an All-Ireland final against the team he was involved with.

Back in 1997, he was given the horrible task of trying to rein in a rampant Maurice Fitzgerald as Mayo took on Kerry in that All-Ireland final.

It did not work out that day either, as Fitzgerald shot 0-9 and Kerry won by 0-13 to 1-7.

3. An early black card cuts out cynicism and opens up the game

It was a tough early call for Laois referee Eddie Kinsella, but he made it, and black carded Castlebar’s Richie Feeney for a body check on Kevin Bonnie after only four minutes.

It was a very big blow for the Mayo champions as Feeney has been a huge player for them all season, however, he will know himself that he should not have shouldered into the St Vincents man.

However, once that black card was shown, there was hardly a single other body check in the entire game and it made for a really open and attractive game of football.

4-12 to 2-11, tells its owns story, however as well as that impressive final scoreline, there was no cynical play at all, and the advocates of the new system will hold the game up as another example of how the new rules can work to make Gaelic more attractive and free-flowing.

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