Canavan: Connolly may yet have final say

Peter Canavan believes Jim Gavin has had to concede an element of control for the first time as Dublin manager, due to the ongoing uncertainty over whether Diarmuid Connolly will play a role for the county this summer.

Questions over Connolly’s availability are unlikely to dissipate as long as he is away from the inter-county scene. Despite that, the Tyrone legend still believes that any manager would “be foolish to put a line through his name at this stage of the season”.

Gavin dealt with the issue last week when confirming that the player had not been available for selection of late, while adding that the door remained open. Connolly duly returned to action with St Vincent’s when coming off the bench for their hurlers in a league game.

This is the first time maybe where you could say that Gavin is not in complete control,” said Canavan at yesterday’s launch of the Sky Sports summer GAA schedule, “whereby it appears Diarmuid Connolly has definitely ruffled a few feathers.

"Up until that, Dublin has been so well marshalled, co-ordinated and organised. Very little was getting out of the camp. That comes with winning and they’ve been so successful, but if there is any team can cope with it, and has the personnel and depth, it’s probably Dublin.”

Still, having Connolly to hand would be useful. The Errigal Ciaran man referenced the crucial contribution Stephen O’Neill made to Tyrone’s All-Ireland final defeat of Kerry 10 years ago, having retired and been persuaded back by Mickey Harte.

It was Connolly, who hadn’t played since his suspension against Carlow months earlier, whom Gavin introduced late on in last year’s All-Ireland final, when the champions needed something extra to squeeze past Mayo.

Diarmuid Connolly argues with linesman Ciaran Brannigan against Carlow in 2017

“It appeared things maybe weren’t going that well behind the scenes, but he still turned to him when he needed him most. When Dublin needed to win a free in the dying seconds of the game, it was Diarmuid Connolly that did it.

“What team couldn’t do with a player of his skill and class? So, if he doesn’t play, that’s a loss to them. Of course it is and, if they pick up one or two injuries to key players, it will give other teams certainly hope and confidence.”

The man known as ‘Peter the Great’ suggested before last year’s championship that Dublin’s reign might come to an end , but he has been impressed by the increased input of fringe players, such as Niall Scully during Dublin’s league campaign.

What competition the Dubs will face this summer will be more apparent on the back of Sunday’s meeting between Mayo and Galway in Castlebar, given the long resistance put up by the former and the emergence of the latter as a force. 

Mayo again approach the championship with questions around their ability, appetite and age, but Canavan sees potential in a side bruised by the battering inflicted by Galway in the league.

There has to be a response from Mayo in some shape or form.

Win, lose or draw this weekend, he sees Mayo marching deep into the summer again. If expectations and odds are proven correct, then Galway will consign Stephen Rochford’s side to another trek through the qualifiers. 

The Tribesmen bore little enough expectation on their return to Division One for the first time in eight years this season. 

Excellent throughout, they boasted the meanest defence in the division and pushed Dublin all the way in the decider.

It was only natural that, as the one new voice in a management team entering its fourth year, Paddy Tally’s role would be singled out for inspection, though Canavan dismisses the idea of the Tyrone man as a strict devotee of blanket defences and quick counters.

“Paddy has only been there a limited time and Galway were (already) showing signs Kevin Walsh was playing that type of game. Paddy has so many qualities to bring to a set-up, not just getting them to play a counter-attacking style of football.

“Kevin Walsh knows what he is doing. He knows what Paddy Tally can bring. You can’t blame Tyrone for Galway’s style of football.”

Sky Sports Live Championship coverage:

Sat June 2: Leinster SHC, Wexford v Galway (5pm); Munster SHC, Cork v Limerick (7pm); Sat June 9: Leinster SHC, Kilkenny v Wexford (7pm); Leinster SHC, Galway v Dublin (7pm);Saturday, June 23: SFC Rd 2 Qualifier (5pm); Sat June 30: SFC Rd 3 Qualifier (5pm); SFC Rd 3 Qualifier; Sat July 7: SFC Rd 4 Qualifier (5pm); SFC Rd 4 Qualifier (7pm); Sat July 14: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final R1 (5pm); Sat July 21: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final Rd (5pm and 7pm); Sat July 28: All Ireland SHC semi-final (5pm); Sun July 29: All-Ireland SHC semi-final (3.30pm); Sat August 4: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final R3, two games (7pm); Sat August 11: All-Ireland SFC semi-final (5pm); Sun August 12: All-Ireland SFC semi-final (3.30pm).


Sun August 19: All-Ireland SHC final (3.30pm); Sun September 2: All-Ireland SFC final (3.30pm)

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