Ger Brennan has added to the growing chorus of Dublin GAA personalities calling for Lee Keegan to be watched closely by match officials in his anticipated duel with Diarmuid Connolly on Saturday.
Although Brennan says his fellow St Vincent’s man has to “suck it up”, he suggested Connolly move to full-forward so umpires have a better chance of spotting any off-the-ball incidents between the pair.
Connolly was sent off in last year’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final after reacting to Keegan and the pair were embroiled in another grappling match 10 days ago.
In what appears to be a concerted effort to put pressure on Maurice Deegan, Brennan became the latest to highlight their issues with the match-up.
“Any forward is going to be targeted by a back and that comes with the territory. Obviously, the better you are, the more attention you are going to get. And if he’s getting that attention then he has to suck it up and get on with it.
“He’s not one for giving out to linesmen or referees or umpires. Maybe does he have to do that, or someone has to do that on his behalf? If he played a bit closer to the Mayo goalmouth for a couple of minutes, maybe Keegan mightn’t get away with as much of the pulling and dragging, which I’m fine with too as a back. If you can get away with it, go for it!”
Brennan maintains Connolly’s on-field etiquette has improved. “I think he gets a bad rap. He just stands his ground. I think if you look at his discipline maybe five years ago, maybe it’s a different story in terms of how he reacted but if someone is constantly pulling and dragging at you and the umpires or referees aren’t going to take some sort of action. Eventually you have to stand your own ground.”
Speaking from the perspective of a defender, Brennan continued: “I think in an All-Ireland final, some umpires mightn’t have the confidence to make a call to the referee that number so and so is continuously at the no 11 and it needs to be stamped out.
“It’s all part of the game, and you have to play the referee as well. You have to see what you can get away with in terms of what’s acceptable.”
Brennan also claimed the Mayo attack also crossed the line in the drawn game as much as he was complimenting them for it.
“I think Mayo’s mindset was a massive factor on how Dublin performed the last day. I thought they were hugely aggressive and they were really up for it, they were really hungry. What I liked about the Mayo forwards was that they went beyond that kind of line of what you can get away with. They pushed it hard as they could and you’ve got to commend them for it. The Dublin players just didn’t respond well enough to it.”
As regards psychological pressure on Dublin leading up to the game, Brennan, retired from inter-county football since October last year, said there may have been two factors — the Kerry game and doing two-in-a-row. He explained: “The only psychological influence I could see that game having on the players is some of the outside conversation leading into the Kerry game was that is potentially the All-Ireland final. And sometimes that can have an effect when you’ve won the game that you may somewhat take for granted whoever you play in the next game, whether it’s Mayo or Tipperary, it’s going to be an easier game.”
Brennan added: “In terms of the pressure that is there in terms of doing the two-in-a-row and possibly being the best Dublin team ever. Does that creep in on your subconscious in some shape or form? It does. As a group do you sit down in a room and talk about it? You definitely do, but you don’t dwell too much on it.”
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