If Diarmuid Connolly lines out for Dublin this summer it will be his first game of championship football in almost two years.

The former All Star forward is one of the most gifted players of his generation and, at 32, still very much in his prime. However, since the 2017 All-Ireland final win over Mayo he has played less than a half a match at inter-county level, as a substitute in a league game against Mayo in February 2018.

He spent last summer playing with the Donegal club in Boston and he looked set to do the same again, yet he is now on the verge of a dramatic comeback for the Dubs.

How much a part he will play in manager Jim Gavin's plans remains to be seen, but Connolly is no doubt hoping that he’ll have a role in winning an unprecedented fifth All-Ireland title in a row for the Boys in Blue.

The St Vincent’s man isn’t the first GAA player to return to the spotlight after taking time out – we look at five of the most famous comebacks of all time.

DJ Carey

DJ Carey with Liam MacCarthy

The Kilkenny great didn’t announce his retirement, but when he revealed he wouldn’t be part of Brian Cody’s panel in 2002 it seemed like he wouldn’t be back.

His last game was the ’01 semi-final defeat to Galway and he played no part in the subsequent league campaign.

Then, almost exactly a year after the previous time he pulled on the black and amber, Carey was picked to start in an All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary. He went on to win an All-Ireland that year and added another 12 months later.

Brian Corcoran

Brian Corcoran in Cork colours in 2004

At the age of 26 the gifted Cork dual player announced his complete retirement from playing – club and county, football and hurling.

If that was a shock, it was nothing compared to the reaction that greeted news of his return to duty with his club Erin’s Own two and-a-half years later. Later that season, May 2004, he returned to championship action with the Rebels.

Corcoran went on to win an All-Ireland and All-Star that season and backed it up with another Celtic Cross, his third, 12 months later. He retired permanently after the 2005 season.

Stephen O’Neill

Stephen O'Neill takes on Marc Ó Sé in the 2008 final

At just 27 years old it seemed as though injury had ended former Footballer of the Year Stephen O’Neill’s playing days for good.

The three-time All-Star and All-Ireland winner called it a day ahead of the start of the 2008 season, though he managed to get his body right and was drafted back into manager Mickey Harte’s panel just weeks before the All-Ireland final with Kerry.

His return was complete when he came on as a second half substitute, but he refused his winners’ medal saying that he felt he hadn’t really played his part. O’Neill played on until 2014.

Jimmy Keaveney

Keaveney, back row, four from the left


Jimmy Keaveney, a St Vincent’s club mate of Connolly’s, walked away from Dublin in 1972 when he was still only 29 years old.

When Kevin Heffernan took over as manager before the start of the 1974 season one of the first jobs on his to-do list was to persuade Keaveney to come out of retirement.

And out of retirement he came, the deadly free-taker going on to win three All-Ireland medals, three All Stars, play in six consecutive finals and earn cult status among the Dubs fans on Hill 16.

Séamus Darby

Darby scores that goal

The man that ended Kerry’s five in-a-row hopes with the most famous goal in Gaelic football history also produced one of the greatest come-backs of all-time.

He was part of the Offaly team that won the 1972 All-Ireland, but disappeared off the scene in 1976, not to reappear again until 1982 bar one league game in ’79.

Manager Eugene McGee knew that he could do a job and he featured as a substitute in the Leinster semi-final win over Laois and started the provincial final against Dublin. Injury ruled him out of the All-Ireland semi-final, but he was fit enough for a place on the bench. The rest, as they say, is history.