Darks days in the past as Eoghan O'Gara focuses on redemption
Published 01/10/2016 | 02:30
It was "bittersweet" watching on as Dublin dethroned Kerry to claim All-Ireland honours last year but with his injury nightmare well behind him, Eoghan O'Gara is chomping at the bit to be involved in today's decider.
So often one of Dublin's go-to men off the bench, O'Gara was over eager when introduced against Donegal and was dismissed for 'striking with the hand' before the offence was later ruled as 'rough play' on appeal.
That saw him available for their titanic semi-final clash with Kerry and after nursing himself back to full health from a cruciate knee ligament injury, the Templeogue Synge Street attacker kicked a crucial point with the game hanging in the balance.
Despite tough times with his mental strength pushed to the brink, he kept his head down with the goal of getting back with the Dubs engrained in his mind. That point made it all worthwhile, his endeavour was not in vain.
"When you get the news of the scan, it does feel like the end of the world. You might have a couple of negative thoughts but the bigger picture then is that all I want to do is get back playing in a Dublin jersey," he says.
"You quickly switch into 'I'll do whatever it takes' mode and if it's not enough, it's not enough. You just put the work in and see what happens. I spent a lot of time with the medical staff but again a lot of it is on your own, having to reassure yourself.
"I suppose the stand out thing to me is missing the team environment when you are training on your own, the early mornings, guys are preparing for matches and you couldn't be further from that so that probably is the most difficult part.
"On reflection afterwards it (the point versus Kerry) certainly was very satisfying. You kind of go through all the dark days you have, rehab and training on your own, so I had a good smile on my face after that game."
Like many of his team-mates, the 31-year-old was "frustrated and disappointed" with his contribution in the drawn final against Mayo and he's eager to set the record straight.
That's likely to be another stint as a second-half substitute but that won't dent O'Gara's hunger and after being sprung early in the final three years ago and firing two crucial points, he'll be ready for action no matter what.
"This is the where I wanted to be this time last year when I was sitting in the stands watching the All-Ireland final. I wanted to be in this position again. I suppose being able to contribute on the pitch, from the start or when called upon," he says.
"I'm just delighted that I'm back. All I've ever wanted to do since I've started playing for Dublin is to be on the pitch, playing matches. If you're not starting, you're disappointed but you're getting yourself right as you come on make an impact.
"That's always the target for me anyway, you always want to get a starting jersey. And if that doesn't happen, you're disappointed for an hour or two but you get your head around it and you make the best of what's left, which is being a sub.
"There's so many eventualities, you don't want to be just looking at the last 20 minutes and being ready for that, you've got to be ready from the start. If there's disappointment not starting it's important that you channel everything into being ready."