Westmeath star Ray Connellan explains what it’s like preparing for and playing against All-Ireland champions Dublin, their season overall, being in a WhatsApp group with Tadhg Kenneally as Kerry were beaten by Cork, and dealing with anxiety.
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Ray Connellan scored two points for Westmeath in their 0-22 to 0-11 defeat to Dublin on Saturday evening.
The Lake County gave a decent account of themselves against the five-in-a-row All-Ireland champions, but ultimately there were too many fires to put out.
The Dubs have monopolised the Leinster championship for more than a decade now, and will be hot favourites to do so again this season.
Connellan played against Dublin in 2015, and spoke of how relentless players such as James McCarthy were back then.
He feels they haven’t changed too much in the meantime, but does explain how they can be susceptible if you can run at them one-on-one.
The Athlone man details how Jack Cooney built a game-plan leading into their clash on Saturday evening, and what it is like to face the kingpins of football.
“The big thing going in is building clarity on what you want to do to get a performance,” Connellan exclusively tells OurGame.
“The result is secondary; it’s about clarity on goals, attainable goals in the game.
“You don’t look at the big picture of getting a win, because you can get lost in that.
“Jack highlighted some areas where we need to be strong, and weaknesses we can find.
“You look at videos of their games and see if you can replicate their set-up in training.
“Then you’ll try to bring that into your training to get some sort of familiarity to what you are facing into.
“They’re very cohesive and well-drilled in how they delegate roles,” he adds. “They’re very good on pushing and pulling players, based on what that player has done.
“If a player has made a decent 80-metre effort and finds himself in one half of the field, they’re interchangeable where players can fit into their positions.
“We saw on the Sunday Game where you have Con O’Callaghan and Dean Rock coming the whole way back working as defenders.
“All teams do that and have that workrate, but it’s their ability then to rebound from that position — and their wing-backs will bomb forward and the likes of Con and Rock will then slowly get their way back up the field.
“They’re very good at pushing and pulling players where they’re needed, and not having the same guy doing the dogging work and running up and down.
“They’re well-drilled and you notice at the end of the game in how they’re efficient in how they work, and no one is too gassed.”
Connellan scored an exceptional point with the outside of his left boot just before half-time, and laughs when explaining why he took on such a difficult effort.
“Someone had just said that time was up, and we had held the ball for nearly two minutes at that stage. I don’t think I could afford to go back anyway.
“I said ‘nothing to lose here’, have a pot-shot and see if it comes off.
“I’m getting slagged people for taking 20 steps or something, but I actually hopped the ball in between. So I didn’t revert back to Aussie Rules (style of carrying the ball).”
Connellan also talks about Mark Keane’s winning goal for Cork against Kerry, the slagging on an AFL WhatsApp group that contains Tadhg Kenneally, and his battles with anxiety and panic attacks.
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