Sunday 23 July 2017

O'Shea targeting place in history books as Dubs bid for last U-21 crown

O’Shea: Expecting tough Galway test. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
O’Shea: Expecting tough Galway test. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

As co-captains of Dublin's U-21 footballers, Cillian O'Shea and Con O'Callaghan have the unique opportunity to write their names in history when they face Galway in the last All-Ireland final in that grade this Saturday.

Having regularly marked each other in both hurling and football when O'Shea's Kilmacud Crokes side faced Cuala at underage level, O'Shea has been aware of O'Callaghan's scoring talent from an early age and understands exactly why he is in demand at senior level in both codes.

O'Shea is just glad they got him back in one piece with the U-21s. After Cuala streaked to All-Ireland club SHC success on St Patrick's Day there were fears that he might not return to Dessie Farrell's squad with the same pep in his step, but those fears were quickly quashed en route to Leinster success.

The young Dubs proved that they are anything but a one-man show in their past two games, however, with the likes of Brian Howard, Aaron Byrne and Tom Fox all stepping up, especially when O'Callaghan was black-carded in the third minute of their EirGrid All-Ireland semi-final win against Donegal.

O'Shea recalls his shock when their star forward received his marching orders but "the team reacted really well to it and have given him another chance to show what he can do in the final".

"I was a bit far away so I wouldn't have noticed. I didn't know what happened, Then I just saw the black and it was like, 'Christ'. But even in the next play it went well. We went up the pitch and it was just back to normal, do the job, the game-plan that we'd planned for. It just went from there, there was no confidence problems or anything."

O'Shea praises the work of their management team led by Farrell, who helped claim their first provincial four-in-a-row at U-21 level, and feels the former Dublin star would make an ideal candidate to take the senior reins in the future.

"I'm sure they'd be interested, I couldn't... you'd have to ask him that now, but I think he's a very good manager and I think anyone who has played under him would tell you the exact same thing. A lot of his players have gone on to play in the senior ranks," he said.

"There's serious trust there. And everyone knows their role, all the players know what their role is. Huge respect for them, the work they do is serious. Just couldn't be happier really with them, we trust in every decision they make. A good few of us have been with them a good few years. We believe in what we are doing... and it's not just the management, the players and management decide how we want to play."

Saturday's opponents are unfamiliar ones with O'Shea, in his third year at U-21, unable to recall facing the Tribesmen at any grade and after watching them dismantle a star-studded Kerry side in the last four, he knows the scale of task facing them in O'Connor Park (5.0).

"Kerry were hugely fancied and anyone I know that knows anything about football had them talked up to the sky. It was very impressive from Galway and a serious performance, especially that opening 10-15 minutes, so it's a big challenge ahead."

After a string of semi-final defeats, O'Shea was delighted to finally get over the line and while he harbours ambitions of making a mark with the seniors in the future, everything revolves around their chase for the Clarke Cup and etching his name in GAA record books forever.

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