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Dublin: 14°C Thursday 13 May 2021

'It was really important for us, the care of Diarmuid. To bring him back into the group was the right thing to do'

Selector Declan Darcy was delighted for Connolly and defender Jonny Cooper.

DUBLIN SELECTOR DECLAN Darcy feels it ‘would have been the right thing to do’ to bring Diarmuid Connolly back into their squad even if their 2019 campaign did not finish on a successful note.

Connolly came on as a half-time substitute in Saturday’s All-Ireland final replay, setting up two points as Dublin saw off Kerry to lift Sam Maguire for the fifth successive year. 

The St Vincent’s star had returned to their squad in mid-July and Darcy feels that Connolly ‘needed football’.

“I think first and foremost it was really important for us, the care of Diarmuid. To bring him back into the group was the right thing to do Things weren’t going really well for him probably outside of football and I think he needed football, he needed structure and whatever about whether he was to function within our group or not.

“He had soldiered long and hard for us and he deserved that right to come back in and I think it was a really good thing for him to do. No matter whether we won an All-Ireland, I still think it would have been the right thing to do because we were looking after one of our own and he needs to be in our family.

“Because the lads are brilliant to look after him, and reach out to him, which is really, really important. It was very impressive to see it, when it operated, and how Diarmuid flourished in that environment, and that friendship being shared to him.

“Then the football side of it, he was in really good shape, and then the balance piece for us was to play him when other guys were there all season. It was difficult enough to balance that piece, but he had produced good stuff in training.

“There was no indications as to why we wouldn’t play him when he was producing some really good stuff in training so.”

Darcy was also delighted for defender Jonny Cooper who played his role in Saturday’s success for Dublin in the wake of his sending-off in the drawn game with Kerry.

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jonny-cooper-after-the-game Jonny Cooper celebrates after Saturday's game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I have a big connection to the defenders particularly – and particularly Jonny Cooper. I have watched him since he was 15 years of age, and I‘ve had him right throughout that journey. He’s very close to me, I know him inside out and it was very tough on him the last day.

“It would have been tougher on him to lose when it was on his head really, so it was a really, really great moment for him. He’s such a leader in the group. You would question whether he puts more than Stephen (Cluxton) into the group so that’s why it meant so much to him and it was really important for one of our key players to get that moment as opposed to the negative moment the previous week.

“He wasn’t really accepted in the Pat Gilroy era and he has had a tough journey. But now he’s in his pomp and it’s great to see him evolve from the tender age of 15.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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