Diarmuid Connolly released a statement on Wednesday 30th September, confirming his retirement from inter-county football, just a fortnight before the 2020 season begins.
The St Vincent’s man was one of Dublin’s star players, contributing hugely to the team’s success over the years. With his immense skill, natural talent, and dying passion for the Dubs, Connolly was out on his own in the GAA world.
In 2007 Connolly joined the Dublin senior panel at the young age of nineteen under Paul “Pillar” Caffrey. Since then he has won six All-Ireland senior championships with Dublin, missing out on the seventh when he took a year out in 2018. He has also received two All-Stars and secured ten Leinster titles in his career.
With parents from Kilkenny and Clare, Connolly was destined to be a hurler. He played hurling at intercounty level up until U21. However, his love for Gaelic football took hold and he began to prioritize the sport.
He was evidently one of the best footballers of his generation, as he was tall, strong, fast, with natural athleticism. He could glide through any defense line with ease, as he comfortably took his forward position.
However, Connolly was also a controversial player, known amongst the country as being hot-headed. Opponents would purposely target him, in hope that he would react with temper and be sent off. With Connolly on the bench, any team had a better chance of winning.
However, it is to be argued if the Dublin superstar courts controversy or if he is being targeted by the opposition. Due to Connolly’s attitude on the pitch, it caused him to have a disturbed intercounty career.
Connolly usually kept his fighting between himself and the opposition, but in June 2017 Connolly faced a 12-week ban after pushing linesman Ciaran Branigan in a game against Carlow.
He came on at half-time in that years All-Ireland final contributing greatly to their win over Mayo. However, after his 12-week ban, Connolly never had the comfort of ensuring his starting position for the Dubs again.
He took a year out from football in 2018 as he spent the summer in America. Jim Gavin decided to recall on Connolly in 2019 as they took on the five-in-a-row.
Connolly stepped in as a half-time replacement for Jack McCaffrey in that year’s All-Ireland final replay against Kerry. With an extraordinary turnover tackle from Connolly, he swiftly kicked passed into Ciaran Kilkenny scoring Dublin’s twelfth point of the match.
The Dubs secured the five-in-a-row title, making history. Even if he did not know it then, that was the last act for Connolly in his beloved Dublin Jersey.
Over the years, Connolly’s footballing talent served Dublin well in their road to being victorious. His departure was quite oddly timed with just two weeks to go until the 2020 season begins. It is evident that his skill, balance, and overall presence will be a great loss to the Dublin panel.