'Hungry' Dub O'Gara eager to shake off supersub tag
Dublin forward Eoghan O'Gara has admitted his surprise that Mayo continued to deploy a marker to follow him during the last quarter of the All-Ireland football final last September, despite the fact that his mobility had completely diminished because of a hamstring injury.
O'Gara tore a hamstring badly just as Bernard Brogan was scoring Dublin's second goal midway through the second half, and with all five substitutes on the field by that stage, O'Gara had to remain in the action.
He withdrew to a deeper position where he was followed by Keith Higgins, who had been deployed to mark him after O'Gara's impressive introduction for Paul Mannion in the first half.
"The guy (Higgins) who's marking me stayed on me, so I was trying to drag him as far away from the play as I could, but I was fairly limited in what I could do," said O'Gara.
"I was (expecting Higgins to push forward), but he didn't. Maybe he thought I was codding him."
Dublin finished the game with just 13 fully operational players on the field because of concussion sustained by Rory O'Carroll and O'Gara's hamstring tear.
O'Gara knew he had no choice but to remain on the field, despite the restrictions he faced.
"I sprinted out for a ball and I felt it pop. I'd done it before, so I knew straight away it was the hamstring," he recalled. "I was hoping it wouldn't be as bad as it was, when I started trying to move again. But then I knew it was gone.
"I thought we had a substitution left, so I gestured to take me off. It's the last thing you want to be doing in an All-Ireland final with 15 minutes to go, asking to come off. But I found out we had no subs, so it was a case of soldier on... I was told to stay on the end line!"
O'Gara has set his sights on regaining a permanent place on the team, something he hasn't enjoyed since 2010 as a succession of injuries have set him back. He was one of the regular cavalry of substitutes which Dublin deployed throughout the 2013 championship, but he is determined to shake off that tag in 2014.
"I'm never satisfied coming in from the line. You want to be getting a one to 15 jersey. That's always my target, but it doesn't always work out that way," he said. "It hasn't happened for me as much as I would have liked. You just stay positive and hungry and when you do get the chance you do what you can."
O'Gara hopes his injuries are behind him after three operations for the elbow and hip (twice) -- he no longer endures the nagging groin problems that surfaced in 2012, although he is currently recovering from an elbow operation.
"I had a minor keyhole clear-out operation just before Christmas. I've been back on the pitch for the last week, so I should be back in February. I might miss the first match (against Kerry) at most," he predicted.
"They (the operations) were a great success, I was glad I got them done. It has probably has taken a bit from my game for a couple of seasons. Hopefully, I'll have a clear run this season.
"The physical restrictions were the burst of pace and the ability to turn sharply, stuff like that. It has taken a bit away from me but it's nice that the surgery worked out. There is no guarantee with that, but I no longer have any pain in the groin area."
O'Gara admitted that much of 2013 was cloaked in frustration as he recovered from his hip problems.
"It's always a lonely spot to be in, when you're coming back from injury. "You're very much on your own, especially when the guys are playing away and winning games and doing very well -- guys in the position you'd like to be in, and they're playing well," he said.
"You're asking yourself questions, but you just have to stay positive and see the bit of light at the end of the tunnel. If it's only a little flicker of light, it does get brighter. You just stay positive as best you can, and wait for your chance to get back out there and show them you still have the desire."