Mickey Harte: Only a fool would rule out Diarmuid Connolly featuring for Dublin
Tyrone manager relishing the shot at the back-to-back All-Ireland champions
Mickey Harte on Diarmuid Connolly: “He’s absolutely a quality player, and has developed into an even better player than he was when he first came on the scene.” Photograph: Declan Roughan/Inpho/Presseye
Only a fool would be planning for an All-Ireland football semi-final against Dublin without thinking about Diarmuid Connolly. He may not have played or strictly speaking even trained with Dublin in 12 weeks, but Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has no doubt Connolly will feature in Croke Park on Sunday week.
“Obviously you would be a fool to dismiss the influence that Diarmuid Connolly can have on any game, and has had over the years,” says Harte, speaking at a Tyrone press event ahead of their first championship meeting with Dublin since 2011.
That day, Connolly scored seven points, all from play – the difference on the scoreboard in the end too – before Dublin went on to collect their first All-Ireland in 16 years. Connolly’s 12-week suspension for pushing a linesman in Dublin’s Leinster championship opener against Carlow expires on the eve of next Sunday’s game, and despite that lack of match practice, Harte expects to see him play at some stage.
We always knew he was a very talented player, he's got all the skills, comfortable on either side, and physically imposing
“It’s something for Jim Gavin to decide, how and when we see him, and in what context. I can’t say much about the detail, but I know for sure he’s certainly a strength that Dublin didn’t have in their games since he got that sending off, so it is an advantage for Dublin to have him in script just now.
“He’s absolutely a quality player, and has developed into an even better player than he was when he first came on the scene, and had all the natural talent and skill and ability. But he’s a powerful player now, along with that.
“We always knew he was a very talented player, got all the skills, comfortable on either side, and physically imposing. And at think at that stage he hadn’t developed as much power as he has now. I think he’s a Connolly-plus from 2011, which means we’ve got to be very careful.”
Connolly’s main strengths, says Harte, including his long-range kicking, is something they are definitely preparing for: “Of course it is, and with either foot he can kick the ball 45-yards plus. That is a serious weapon to have in your armoury. And yes, he is as good as anyone at doing that, so for sure that has to be an advantage to Dublin, to have that kind of talent at their disposal.”
Harte is clearly relishing the shot at the back-to-back All-Ireland champions, in every sense, and while accepting Croke Park gives Dublin some advantage, particularly Hill 16, he also warned against Dublin supporter trying to steal some unfair advantages, like he feels they did in that 2011 meeting.
“It’s almost like the 16th and 17th man, in that Hill 16 can almost suck the ball over the bar. It’s like an orchestra, the tempo just rises, and everyone feels something special. So yeah, their supporters have the capacity to influence the energy of the team, but no, I don’t think they can influence referees, I trust referees at this level.
“But I would say, and it was that game in 2011, and I hope it doesn’t come back again, but it was a very important time in that game when we put a wonderful ball into Martin Penrose, and there was a whistle blown, from the Hill, and he just paused for that split second, and lost the opportunity of a clear cut goal. So, that wouldn’t be a good thing to happen, I hope that it doesn’t happen, and we have to be very aware of the possibility of that.”