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‘We are leaving the door open’: Connolly still in contention for International Rules call

Connolly will captain St Vincent’s in the Dublin SFC final this weekend.

Connolly won his third All-Ireland medal with Dublin last month.
Connolly won his third All-Ireland medal with Dublin last month.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JOE KERNAN WILL leave the International Rules door open for Diarmuid Connolly for as long as possible.

The Ireland manager is in the process of whittling down his panel for the one-off test against Australia on 21 November.

A number of players, including last year’s captain Michael Murphy, have been ruled out through injury while Kernan’s hands are tied in some cases by the club calendar.

Rory Beggan, Kieran Hughes, Darren Hughes and Mattie Donnelly have all been training with the squad but may have to drop out if their clubs progress beyond the Ulster football quarter-finals this weekend.

Meanwhile, Connolly captains St Vincent’s against Ballyboden St Enda’s on Sunday with the Marino men hoping for a third straight Dublin title.

Even if Vincent’s win and progress to Leinster, Kernan is hopeful that the Dublin star will be able to combine his club and country commitments.

He said: “I spoke to Diarmuid a few weeks ago and he is captain of his club which is very important.

“Their club is number one but they also want to play for their country so I haven’t ruled Diarmuid out if you are asking me that question.

“But what happens this weekend and what him and his club want to do after that, we’ll decide this weekend. We are leaving the door open as long as we can and hoping we can finalise the squad then.

A player of Diarmuid’s quality would really suit this game because we want to kick the ball and there is no better player in the country at kicking the ball right or left than him, and maybe throw in a few scores along with that.

“But he is captain of his club and it’s a big commitment so we’ll know in the next week or so.”

Kerry’s David Moran and Dublin’s Brian Fenton have also been ruled out of the Croke Park test, the latter to have surgery on a ‘minor’ shoulder problem.

But Footballer of the Year nominee Jack McCaffrey has joined up with the squad following Clontarf’s Dublin championship exit while Tommy Walsh is due to come in this weekend.

“People might think the novelty factor is gone but you couldn’t tell the players that,” Kernan said.

“The players who aren’t there at the moment are players who can’t be here either with club commitments or injuries. All those players would be here.

From the players’ point of view, it’s not a novelty. It’s to wear an Irish jersey and the honour of wearing an Irish jersey is immense.

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