'Ruthless' Jim Gavin unlikely to recall Diarmuid Connolly
Former Dublin teammate of coach gives an insight into Gavin’s approach to leadership
Diarmuid Connolly: Senan Connell believes the St Vincent’s player will not be part of Dublin’s drive for five All-Ireland titles. Photograph: Inpho
Ruthless, driven, focused . . . Just some of the words chosen to describe his former Dublin teammate Jim Gavin, and Senan Connell should know.
Connell, these days a Gaelic football analyst with eir sport and Sky, effectively took Gavin’s place in the Dublin team when he made his debut in 1998, going on to win three Leinster titles, before Pat Gilroy and ultimately Gavin himself took Dublin back to the All-Ireland conquering stage.
Expanding on that ruthlessness and drive, Connell also believes it’s unlikely Diarmuid Connolly will make it back into the Dublin team as they begin that quest for five-in-a-row, part of Gavin’s drive being to ensure the team keeps evolving.
“From my own personal point of view, I can’t see it,” he says. “Just adding up bits and pieces, I find it difficult to see Diarmuid coming back into that panel now, and I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.
“What we do know is Jim is ruthless. He’s looking forward. What’s interesting was Brian Howard and Diarmuid Connolly referenced him the year before as ‘one to watch’, and he ends up taking his jersey and doing a good job. I’d love to see him back in a Dublin jersey. I think he’s the most talented player and the most influential player that we could have, but Jim will probably believe he has the cover there. I think Jim’s motto is ‘there’s no stars on this team, we’ll win with or without you’, and I think he’s proven that last year.”
Gavin’s focus, says Connell, was perfected during his own playing career, which after winning an All-Ireland at wing forward in 1995, later saw him convert into a free-taker.
“He was driven and focused and by his own admission, ended up being a free-taker. When he came onto the panel he definitely wasn’t a free-taker. He was a left-footed guy so he trained to the Nth degree. If anything I got off him it was that he was a real leader. They talk about him as a disciplinarian and that if you’re in the army you’re a disciplinarian but it’s about leadership and communication and everything else when you come from the army.
“He was a communicator for a younger player like me, he’d talk to you and give you little tit-bits and I actually got his position when he retired, he got an injury and that sort of stuff. So I certainly didn’t get the ruthlessness from him but what I did get was the leadership that he would have shown to players like me, and I suppose the ‘Dublin way’ that he has brought onto this team now.”
Ahead of Dublin’s development squad facing Westmeath in Friday’s O’Byrne Cup final, Connell rates several so-called fringe players: “Seánie McMahon. And for me, Aaron Byrne is another. He’s my own club, Na Fianna. Seán Bugler from Plunkett’s, but they’re all forwards, And going forward, Dublin need cover in that full-back line. Although the culture of the team is they’re very flexible and they can throw guys into the full-back line.”