Dublin v Tyrone: Connolly finally delivers display to match his huge talent
Just before Bernard Brogan scored the 21st in a series of one of the most thorough expositions of point-scoring ever seen on the sainted green sward, Diarmuid Connolly sprinted some 20 yards to spring the ball from the weary hands of Philip Jordan.
In a microcosm, it summed up the blue-collar ethic that underscored every minute of Dublin's most comprehensive statement of footballing intent in a decade. Connolly's performance didn't overshadow his team-mates: it exemplified the collective.
But Connolly stopped the breath. This teeming city is brimful of stellar athletes we have never heard of. Why? Because they couldn't wed their ego to the discipline required to make it on the big stage.
Football and hurling come easy to Diarmuid Connolly. But until now, it was a thinly concealed rumour that he could transfer his innate talent to a time and place when it really mattered.
We knew he was fond of the bright lights on a Saturday night. Now, instead of being distracted by the flashing lights of a nightclub, Connolly belatedly danced to a different beat before his adoring faithful with a bravura display.
Finally, he has announced his capacity to thrill. Let there be no more condescending talk of a fully-grown man requiring confidence to thrive. He has arrived. But not on his terms. On the team's.
“He's capable of doing anything,” sighed Pat Gilroy afterwards.
“He's a phenomenal talent and he's capable of doing even better than that. We see that at training every week.
“We've been waiting a while to
see it in Croke Park. He is that good. He's done well in the league and committed himself hugely to his efforts. Aside from the points, his work ethic was huge.”
That work ethic underpinned all. From Paul Flynn's immediate trio of breaking-ball triumphs in the opening minutes, maintaining his spectacular summer of hard-nosed achievement, to Connolly's desperate dash into the right corner to chase down a loose ball in the game's eerily premature trash time.
Such was Dublin's intensity, they could foul neatly every two and a bit minutes yet paradoxically retain their discipline at all times (notwithstanding an appalling refereeing display).
They created scoring chances every two and a bit minutes too, 32 in all, from which 22 points were harvested.
The goals would have been merely decorative and perhaps are better shelved for when tighter confines are presented by the oppressive Donegal defensive machine.
The sadness of Tyrone's demise was revealed in Gilroy's unwittingly cutting revelation that some of Dublin's challenge matches were arguably more competitive than this sorry destruction of the erstwhile northern lights.
Dublin destroyed Tyrone within their central citadel and, from there, highlighted by the conquest of the artist Sean Cavanagh by the supreme artisan Denis Bastick, who may yet emerge to join Flynn in shedding that desperate tag of being ‘unsung'.
“There's an awful lot of things that the camera doesn't see,” agreed Gilroy. “Denis Bastick? I don't think anybody ever thinks that he has a good game.
“But he took on one of the greatest footballers in Ireland and really silenced him. It often goes unnoticed but it doesn't get unnoticed by us.”
Not much did, clearly. From the long, early ball to the forwards, Dublin thrived.
Through it all, Connolly sparkled like a shimmering diamond, the rough edges sharpened by true grit.