Kilkenny was unaware of what unfolded following Sunday’s Leinster semi-final over Westmeath when manager Jim Gavin took the decision not to permit one-on-one interviews with broadcasters before criticising RTÉ and Sky Sports for their coverage of Connolly’s exchange with linesman Ciarán Branagan in the Carlow game.
“Straight after the game, I was oblivious,” said Kilkenny. “You wouldn’t be knowing what’s going on in the background. We’re just focused on playing and focused on our preparation and our training and recovery. You put so much time into your actual training sessions that, outside that, you want to do other things. Go to the cinema. Play a bit of pitch and putt.
“On the Diarmuid thing, Diarmo wants to move on and the team wants to move on so I’m sure a lot of you want to move on!”
Former Dublin manager Tommy Lyons has questioned whether Connolly will play for Dublin again this year but Kilkenny expects him to be in the shake-up providing they beat Kildare and win their following game to qualify for the second All-Ireland semi-final.
“Yeah, I’m sure you will (see him again this summer). He’s back, when? The semi-final? Yeah, if he’s moving well he’ll be back, yeah.”
Kilkenny doesn’t see the subject creating pressure on Dublin. “I don’t know. We don’t look at that kind of stuff as players.”
Although, as a player who has likened his fellow teammates to brothers, Kilkenny does feel for Connolly as he has to kick his heels.
“If anything does ever happen to someone in the group, you just put your arm around him and you’re there as a support — to anyone on the team. If they need you, you’re there.
“If anything does happen to anyone in your life, you go out and do something with them or just chat to them. I think that’s really important for inter-county players, at hurling and football level, because at the end of the day lads are amateur sportspeople. So if something does happen outside, whether it’s work-related or life-related, you just have to put your arm around them and support them as much as you can.”
On that point, Kilkenny could see why Gavin wanted to defend Connolly. “Yeah, I suppose it’s a duty of care as a manager to look after and protect your players, and that’s his responsibility as a manager.”