Only a fool would rule out Con­nolly fea­tur­ing for Dubs – Harte

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - IAN O’RIORDAN

Only a fool would be plan­ning for an All-Ire­land foot­ball semi-fi­nal against Dublin with­out think­ing about Diar­muid Con­nolly. He may not have played or strictly speak­ing even trained with Dublin in 12 weeks, but Ty­rone man­ager Mickey Harte has no doubt Con­nolly will fea­ture in Croke Park on Sun­day week.

“Ob­vi­ously you would be a fool to dis­miss the in­flu­ence that Diar­muid Con­nolly can have on any game, and has had over the years,” says Harte, speak­ing at a Ty­rone press event ahead of their first cham­pi­onship meet­ing with Dublin since 2011.

The dif­fer­ence

That day, Con­nolly scored seven points, all from play – the dif­fer­ence on the score­board in the end too – be­fore Dublin went on to col­lect their first All-Ire­land in 16 years. Con­nolly’s 12-week sus­pen­sion for push­ing a lines­man in Dublin’s Le­in­ster cham­pi­onship opener against Car­low ex­pires on the eve of next Sun­day’s game, and de­spite that lack of match prac­tice, Harte ex­pects to see him play at some stage.

“It’s some­thing for Jim Gavin to de­cide, how and when we see him, and in what con­text. I can’t say much about the de­tail, but I know for sure he’s cer­tainly a strength that Dublin didn’t have in their games since he got that send­ing off, so it is an ad­van­tage for Dublin to have him in script just now.

“He’s ab­so­lutely a qual­ity player, and has de­vel­oped into an even bet­ter player than he was when he first came on the scene, and had all the nat­u­ral ta­lent and skill and abil­ity. But he’s a pow­er­ful player now, along with that.

“We al­ways knew he was a very talented player, got all the skills, com­fort­able on ei­ther side, and phys­i­cally im­pos­ing. And I think at that stage he hadn’t de­vel­oped as much power as he has now. I think he’s a Con­nolly-plus from 2011, which means we’ve got to be very care­ful.”

Se­ri­ous weapon

Con­nolly’s main strengths, says Harte, in­clud­ing his long-range kick­ing, is some­thing they are def­i­nitely pre­par­ing for: “Of course it is, and with ei­ther foot he can kick the ball 45-yards plus. That is a se­ri­ous weapon to have in your ar­moury. And yes, he is as good as any­one at do­ing that, so for sure that has to be an ad­van­tage to Dublin, to have that kind of ta­lent at their dis­posal.”

Harte is clearly rel­ish­ing the shot at the back-to-back All-Ire­land cham­pi­ons, in ev­ery sense while ac­cept­ing Croke Park gives Dublin some ad­van­tage, par­tic­u­larly Hill 16.

“It’s al­most like the 16th and 17th man, in that Hill 16 can al­most suck the ball over the bar. It’s like an or­ches­tra, the tempo just rises, and every­one feels some­thing spe­cial. So yeah, their sup­port­ers have the ca­pac­ity to in­flu­ence the en­ergy of the team, but no, I don’t think they can in­flu­ence ref­er­ees, I trust ref­er­ees at this level.”

Mickey Harte: “It is an ad­van­tage for Dublin to have him in script now”

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