LUKE CONNOLLY says that having a thick skin helps in the high-octane world of inter-county forwards.
The 28-year-old sharpshooter understands the groans from the stands and terraces when a shot doesn’t hit the target or when a pass goes astray.
And the star Nemo Rangers finisher is one of those shoot-on-sight players, who can nail some remarkable points from seemingly impossible angles, as well as drilling quality goals.
But, there are those rare days when Connolly doesn’t even make the list of scorers, as was the case in the Munster semi-final, against Limerick, which is why he is so keen to make amends against Kerry, in the decider in Killarney on Sunday at 4pm.
“I’m sure there are fellows in the stand saying, ‘Will they get him off’, but it’s all about scoring and, as I say to the lads, ‘You don’t kick to miss’,” Connolly said.
“You have to have a thick skin and have confidence in your own ability.
“I think, against Kerry, we’ll be able to move with more fluidity up top, as I don’t think Kerry will respect us as much as Limerick.
It might actually suit us if Kerry don’t flood players back, because it might open up as a result.
“I do think it was a bit of frustration on our part, up front against Limerick.
“You almost try too hard when teams drop so deep and bring so many players behind the ball.
“Patience is probably the key in those situations, even though I never thought it was going to be a shootout.
“As a forward, scoring is your currency. I’m not great on how many blocks I make as much as the team.
“I’d love a shootout, as long as I get loads of scores and we win, but, realistically, that’s not the way the sport is played.
“I wouldn’t fancy getting involved in a shootout with the Kerry forward line and the likes of Sean O’Shea and David Clifford, who will lap that up.
“I’d love to be scoring, but when you get to this level, there are enough fellows who can tap over four points in a game.
“If all the forwards are getting three scores a game and contributing in the back line with a tackle or a turnover, that will stand to us, as opposed to one guy getting 10 or 12 points to the detriment of them setting up scores.
“I hate coming off the pitch not scoring, but at this level your contributions are a lot different.”
Last year, Connolly, surprisingly, didn’t start against Kerry, but came on and played a big role in Mark Keane’s goal, in addition to contributing 0-3.
Was I right to take the shot? Mark saved me, in that sense, but the justification came in the recent Derry-Donegal game. Derry tried to work a shot the same as us, but didn’t and the referee blew the final whistle.”
Connolly started against Tipperary but got injured just before half-time, after scoring 0-4.
Connolly’s first Munster final was in 2017 and he’s relishing the challenge of Cork trying to end a 26-year wait since their last triumph in the Kingdom.
“Killarney, on Sunday, is the day to shine. I love games like this; every inter-county player does,” Connolly said.
“I’m not one to get nervous. It’s not being cocky. I play football for the enjoyment and I feel it’s just wrong to get so stressed about something we do as an escape.”
Beating Kerry in last year’s semi-final represented a big step in the right direction, though Connolly reckons its relevance has faded.
“We are capable of beating the big boys, but, at the same time, we’re polar opposites this year, because conditions are different and so are the panels.
“Kerry are not going to line out the way they did that night and neither will we. Last year is gone. We’re just focussing on the now.
“We want to bridge that gap that’s been there for a while and I believe we have a group who can do it, even though a lot will have to go right for us,” Connolly said.