Four days after Carlow presented them with a 15-man blanket and the All-Ireland champions were parking the bus at Parnell Park with Dean Rock — a forward, fittingly enough — pulling the handbrake on anything that might approximate to an interesting conversation about Diarmuid Connolly.
You couldn’t blame the player, stuck as he was between the proverbial and a hard place for a pre-arranged Aer Lingus promotional event that reportedly caused the team’s brains trust all sorts of palpitations after Connolly was landed with a proposed 12-week ban the night before.
The usual finger food and beverages were on offer for the assembled press but it was the tension you could have cut with a knife as Rock was directed to a seat behind a top table which created a figurative and a literal distance. The interview equivalent of pulling up a drawbridge It started with the usual soft balls.
Good win at the weekend? How would you rate the team performance? Yada yada. Five questions in and the first bit of mildly appealing bait was cast into the water.
Did Connolly’s suspension take the gloss of that 12-point defeat of Carlow in Portlaoise?
“No, not at all. We were just focusing on our own performance and we went down there to get a win and that’s what we did.”
Has there been much talk among the players about the ban?
Alan Brogan says any possible appeal could have a negative effect on the squad, though. What do you think?
“As I said, in respect to Diarmuid I won’t be speaking about it. I don’t think it’s an issue.”
Be thankful: This is the edited version.
Rock was, to use another sporting cliche, a very safe pair of hands. Free-takers are accustomed to highly- pressured situations when everyone’s eyes are locked on them and he sat there yesterday for over 13 minutes with the calm of a kid who knew he was acing his English Paper One.
How Dublin will be graded in the event of a 12-week absence for Connolly is another thing. There are those who believe the man’s talents no longer outweigh his penchant for ill-discipline but even Rock couldn’t gloss over the fact his potential absence would be a blow.
“Diarmuid is one of the best footballers I’ve ever played with. He’s been a great footballer with Dublin and achieved so much. Obviously a fella of his talent would be a huge loss to the panel but … we’ve got a big game to prepare for in the next two weeks against Westmeath or Offaly in a Leinster semi-final.
“We are focusing on that as best we can.”
And on the interview lurched, like a drunk desperate for its bed.
Detours were taken out of desperation. His free-taking got a solid airing, so too his opinions on that dastardly difficult Leinster Championship. The last query on Connolly was in the form of a theory that maybe he is under more scrutiny because of his talent. As opposed to his volcanic temper, like.
“I can’t comment on that, in terms of whether he comes under more scrutiny from opposition teams, but, as I said, Dermot is a fantastic footballer. When you’re a fantastic footballer sometimes teams have to do certain things to try to get into your head space or take you off your game.
“Dublin footballers aren’t any different to any other county footballers around the country. That’s what teams do. That’s just modern football. That’s probably the way football was for years gone by, when my Dad played or other teams played in the 90s or 2000s, so I don’t think anything is any different nowadays.”