So under the body armour and behind the often ruthless football streak is a humble and tender Diarmuid Connolly. He may still be somewhat mercurial on the field but he couldn't be much more chilled off of it.
At least it felt that way as Connolly presented himself in Parnell Park to help launch the 2015 Dublin club championship, and with that provide us with the first sit-down interview in, well, his 27 years. He spoke about his range of motivations, and increasing responsibilities – including handing out Easter Eggs, a few weeks ago, to several hundred youngsters at his club, St Vincent's.
“Although trying to get into the car park was a bit of a disaster,” he says, and that’s possibly about as upset as Connolly gets these days. For years his potentially volatile nature both on and off the field sometimes got the better of him, although Connolly admits there is a maturity about him now which only time and experience can bring.
Indeed Connolly will captain St Vincent's this year as they set off in search of a third Dublin title in succession: he's also vice-captain of the Dublin team, under goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.
Connolly says he neither consciously nor deliberately avoided any media engagement, nor does he intend doing much more of this, because all that really matters for him is success on the football field.
“And you just try to be humble in victory and defeat,” he says, with meaning. “We go out to win every game. Maybe I’m lucky in that I’m part of a great team in St Vincent’s and a great team with Dublin over the last three or four years.
“But I don’t think complacency comes into it. If you get too big for your boots, you’ll be brought right back down to ground level. Like you saw what happened against Corofin this year (in the All-Ireland club semi-final). We were red-hot favourites going into that game. I don’t think we took our eye off the ball, But we were defeated, and now we’ve 30 or 35 players back, still fighting for places, still turning up and still wanting to win the Dublin championship.
“And I don’t get tired of it. I actually love playing football, especially on the sunny days like this. I just want to go out and try to win every game, and help the players around me to be as best as they can. Talent will only get you so far in sport. Hard work and talent wins medals.”
If that sounds like a lesson for life as well as football then it's only fitting Connolly then pays tribute to Dave Billings – the stalwart of Gaelic games, who died suddenly earlier this week, and who influenced Connolly during his formative years at St Vincent's and Dublin.
“(Dave) was an absolutely massive influence on me. He brought me into the Dublin setup, when Pillar Caffrey was the manager, and I was only 18. He gave me great guidance in the game. Obviously, a Vincent’s man – like myself – and it wasn’t just GAA circles he was involved in, it was every aspect of life.”
There have been others, too, including former St Vincent's team-mate and later Dublin manager Pat Gilroy: "They've all done massive things in the GAA. But at the same time, they're guys that you can talk to. They're humble people.
“And they’ll always give you a bit of advice if you do need it. Sometimes you don’t want to take it on board. But he (Gilroy) was a guy I could actually speak to, not only on a management basis, but also as a friend.”
With the championship approaching – and also a league final against Cork – Connolly is not short of motivation. He’s not dwelling on the goal-chance he had in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal last summer, which, had it gone in, may well have put Dublin out of sight.
“A lot of other things happened in that game that could have been a bit different but weren’t. Yeah, it was a good save. I probably should have put it in the right-hand corner rather than going across the goalkeeper but it’s not something that haunts me. It’s a shot at goal. If it goes in, we’re another three points ahead. If it goes wide or it’s saved, we’re still in the game.”