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comment Dublin's Diarmuid Connolly and myself were 'Marmite characters' - either loved or loathed

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Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent's

Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent's

SPORTSFILE

Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent's

I never met Diarmuid Connolly, but I always felt we were kindred spirits.

We were both Marmite characters - either loved or loathed.

Needless to say, I became public enemy number one with Dublin fans after I drew attention on television to an incident involving Connolly and a linesman during a Leinster Championship game against Carlow in 2017.

I've always called things as I see them, and I stand over everything I said that night. Connolly broke the rules and got punished.

Did the 12-week ban he received fit the crime - possibly not, but that's not my remit.

But let's reflect on Connolly the footballer.

He was one of the best footballers in the modern era.

His qualities included strength, vision, and balance. In terms of the accuracy of his kick passing with both feet, he had no peers.

Like Kerry's Paul Galvin, he was a maverick which made him box office. Few modern-day players have the x-factor, but Connolly had it in spades.

I still have great vivid memories of some of his memorable performances.

His tour de force effort for St Vincent's in the 2014 All-Ireland club final against Castlebar Mitchels immediately springs to mind.

He scored 2-5 from play and set up two more goals. It was the greatest ever individual performance in a club final.

In the Dublin colours there was his 0-7 from play in the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final against Tyrone. His ball retention skills in the last 15 minutes of the 2011 final against Kerry and the way he changed the course of the 2017 final against Mayo after coming on stand out.

But there were others as well. Kerry fans still have painful memories of his performances in both the 2013 and 2016 All-Ireland semi-finals.

There is no such thing as the complete footballer and Connolly had flaws. He had a suspect temperament and Lee Keegan got under his skin.

He could be inconsistent over a season, which is probably why he only won two All-Stars.

He is the fourth Dublin player to retire since last year's All-Ireland, following in the footsteps of Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O'Gara and Darren Daly.

While all four had become peripheral figures in recent seasons their departure means another chink has appeared in the all-conquering Dublin machine.

Jim Gavin's decision to bring him back to the squad late in last year's campaign illustrated how highly he rated him.

Historic

He had been out of favour all season and all the signs were that he would play no part in the bid for a historic fifth title on the spin. But after his proposed trip to the US fell through, Gavin restored him to the squad.

It was a classic example of favourable treatment for the 'Prodigal Son'. I doubt if some other players on the squad were over the moon. But it paid off.

Connolly's last contribution to Dublin was helping them secure the historic five-in-row of All-Ireland titles. What better epitaph could any footballer have? As a Kerry man, I salute you as a footballer.

pat spillane