Diarmuid Connolly's continued absence for Dublin’s Allianz League final victory over Galway at Croke Park will have come as little surprise, the 30-year-old has not trained with the Boys in Blue in well over a month.
Jim Gavin continues to state publicly that the St Vincent’s man is being rested; answering the question of ‘Where is Diarmuid Connolly’ with the response of ‘resting’ leaves Dublin supporters with more questions than answers.
Connolly has played half an hour’s football for Dublin in 2018. He came on to replace Michael Darragh Macauley during the 2-10 to 0-12 win over Mayo back in February. One theory to emerge over the last week is not that Connolly has decided to take a break to rest his bones, but perhaps he is just in need of a break from the sport for other reasons beyond the physical toll taken by the demands of being an inter-county player.
For the best part of the last decade Connolly has been the most scrutinised player in the country, maybe he is just sick of the spotlight. Last year his season was savaged by a 12-week ban picked up during their first Leinster SFC game against Carlow, he was suspended for ‘minor physical interference with a match official’.
The minor infraction carried a major punishment as the book was thrown at the Dublin forward. Is it a surprise that the most scrutinised player in the country could grow disillusioned with the game?
The Dubs breezed through Leinster in his absence recording wins over Westmeath, Kildare and Monaghan. Connolly was free to play for the semi-final clash with Tyrone, but only managed a meaningless cameo in the dying minutes with the win already long secured.
The real story, if there is one, is unlikely to come to the fore any time soon as Dublin are a tight knit group renowned for their unconditional loyalty to the cause, rumours about the reasons for Connolly’s seemingly self imposed exile continue to permeate in the absence of any real information.
Reports suggest he has taken a complete break from sport and is not training with club or county at the moment, Gavin was once again pressed on the issue after the win at Croke Park last week, but could offer little more than this:
"His status at the moment is that both Diarmuid and I agreed that what was best was that he would take a rest over these games.
"He has had a long number of years playing senior inter-county football, as have a lot of this group, so that decision was made in his best interests."
Then came the follow up question: ‘Do you expect him to come back to the panel this season?’
"Please God," was the response from Gavin.
Connolly has won every major honour in the game, with Dublin he’s collected 5 All-Irelands, 10 Leinster medals, and 4 Allianz Leagues titles. In the blue and white of St Vincent’s, the Marino man has twice been an All Ireland champion, won 4 Leinster titles and tasted success in the Dublin SFC on 5 occasions.
His influence on those team successes raises eyebrows when you consider the criminal lack of individual accolades he has received, two All Stars is a paltry return for one of the most gifted players to ever lace up a pair of football boots.
After 10 seasons in the sky blue of Dublin perhaps Connolly is tired, tired of being underappreciated and more scrutinised than any other player in the game, disillusioned after a season decimated by an excessive ban.
Connolly’s genius hasn’t been properly recognised outside of Dublin, on his day the pace and power he plays the game at is at a different level. His majestic ability to ping the ball around the pitch and make it look completely effortless is unrivaled. His decision making and shot selection are game changing.
History will no doubt be kinder to Connolly than contemporary commentary or the All Star judging committee. Unfortunately at this point there are suggestions that it appears to be a case of ‘if’ and not ‘when’ we will see the 30-year-old back on the pitch.
Is one of the greatest players to play the game going to rejoin the Dublin panel before the summer? Please God.