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'I would put him in the same bracket as Eric Cantona who could do things that others couldn't'

Marc Ó Sé talks about recently retired Dublin legend Diarmuid Connolly as our guest on this week’s edition of the Warriors podcast.

Marc Ó Sé in action against Dublin in 2013.
Marc Ó Sé in action against Dublin in 2013.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

A ONCE IN a generation talent is how Kerry legend Marc Ó Sé reflects on Diarmuid Connolly’s inter-county career.

At 33, Connolly brought the curtain down on his time in a Dublin jersey last month, bringing six All-Ireland medals and two All-Star awards with him as he departs.

He played an important role in Dublin’s charge to their historic five-in-a-row success, although his influence lessened somewhat in recent seasons.

Ó’Sé confronted the genius of the St Vincent’s star many times during his time playing in the Kerry defence.

Speaking to Kevin Brannigan on this week’s edition of The42‘s Warriors podcast, he says Connolly had an ability that was comparable to Man United icon, Eric Cantona.

“We were attracted to him because he was flawed,” he begins. “He wasn’t perfect, he had a temper.

I for one would put him in the same bracket as the likes of Eric Cantona who could do things with a ball that others just couldn’t do.

“Jim Gavin knew within this player, there was genius and extraordinary ability, not alone to do things with a ball but also, [an] ability to bring players into a game. For me, that was a huge thing.”

There were several high-stakes games where Connolly showed flashes of brilliance for his county, including the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final between Dublin and Kerry.

It was Jim Gavin’s first year in charge of the Dubs, who scored 2-2 in the last five minutes of that game to progress to the All-Ireland final.

Ó Sé was marking Bernard Brogan that day, while his brother, Tomás was tasked with marshalling the movements of Connolly.

“It was a phenomenal game,” Ó Sé recalls.

“A lot of games, you come off the field physically drained. But in games that are so tight, you come off the field physically and mentally drained. It was in the melting pot right up until the very end, and when the goal went in, it changed everything. We were devastated after.”

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Connolly pocketed 0-4 that day, a tally which included an important free-kick towards the end of the contest to help propel Dublin to a seven-point victory.

But Ó Sé points to a different moment in the game which he feels was the true highlight from Connolly’s display. Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton played a key role in the move.

diarmuid-connolly-celebrates-scoring-a-late-point Diarmuid Connolly wheels away after scoring a point for in the 2013 semi-final. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“It’s funny, Diramuid Connolly who was outstanding for Dublin, gets man-of-the-match, You try and think of that and analyse it. It’s funny because your primary duty as a defender is to mark your man and Connolly certainly had his moments. For me, it’s not really that free-kick that is the defining moment.

“What stands out is the kick-out from Cluxton towards the end, that goes right over the top of everyone and goes over Tomás.

“Tomás is trying to do a high press for the kick-out, but the ball goes over his head and all of the midfielders and lands over by the Cusack Stand side where Connolly is running onto it, and it’s straight over the bar. It’s one of the most incredible scores, you can see it orchestrated on the training ground.

You have two geniuses like Cluxton and Connolly coming together like that. It was just phenomenal. For me, that was the highlight of Diarmuid Connolly that day. 

“The way he was able to take the ball on the run, catch it and kick the score the way he did. That score is something that definitely stuck with me.”

To hear to the full interview and listen to the 24-episode back catalogue featuring the likes of Bernard Brogan, Ronan Curran, Liam McHale, Ken McGrath, Johnny Doyle and Seanie McMahon, subscribe at members.the42.ie.

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