'The dream is always to play for Dublin'- Con O'Callaghan putting his hand up for game-time with Dubs
Published 05/05/2016 | 02:30
If Con O'Callaghan is to play any more meaningful football again this year, it will be with the Dublin seniors.
Cuala's defeat to Jude's means there's the underwhelming prospect of the 'B' championship with his club and maybe a couple of league games - though given his involvement with the Dublin seniors, that's probably unlikely.
That leaves the 20-year-old starlet needing to make an impression on the most competitive forward line in the country to see some action. It's a big ask for someone afforded a few gallops in the O'Byrne Cup and a few injury-time minutes in the League win over Kerry way back in January.
"It's a challenge," he agrees. "I'll be looking to push forward this year but it is good challenge for me. They are the top footballers in the game at the moment and if I can challenge them in any way it's a good experience."
"You learn a lot straight away - you learn how to play different positions and what you come up against. It's probably not any faster than the 21s but you need a lot of composure and confidence playing with them."
O'Callaghan was the Dublin U-21s' stand out performer on their run to the All-Ireland semi-final. In a Dublin hotel yesterday, he picked up the EirGrid Player of the Month award for March for his scoring exploits in the competition.
Would-be champions Mayo eventually took them out of the running in the semi-final though only after Dublin had put themselves into a winning position, leading by four points with seven minutes to play.
"I watched the match a few nights ago. Looking back at it when we are four points ahead with a few minutes left it is hard to watch that and know the outcome," laments O'Callaghan.
"You think we are in control and are ahead and it's tough to know you could have done things differently."
O'Callaghan was the only one of Dessie Farrell's Dublin U-21 set-up involved with the seniors.
He's back in harness now with Gavin's all-conquering men and eager to make up for lost time. He missed the most of 2015 with a patella tendon injury, though he did return in time to start his club's Leinster senior club hurling final defeat to Oulart-The Ballagh, having also come on in the semi-final win over Clara.
Indeed, he might have missed those games through suspension as an oversight meant he played in a junior hurling final that he wasn't eligible for.
He scored 3-6 in that decider but subsequently picked up a 12-week ban which was later commuted down to 10 weeks, allowing him to feature against Clara last November.
"When I was minor I played for the senior hurlers but I was still minor, so I didn't think I'd have to be regraded," he explained.
"But then I went up and played the junior championship, and subsequently I found out I wasn't allowed play!"
O'Callaghan played both minor hurling and football for Dublin in 2014 and some expected him to follow his brother Cian into the Ger Cunningham's panel.
However, he always felt football was a more natural fit.
"Cuala would be more hurling. I played all the way up to minor, Gaelic and hurling. Cian used to play football; he moved to hurling. I moved naturally to football. I always felt I was a better footballer."
He'll be tested to his limits in Dublin's St Clare's base this summer. He only turned 20 a few weeks ago but he's making all the right moves to get Gavin's attention. And Gavin himself has shown a willingness to give less exposed players their chance its fling, as witnessed by Brian Fenton's emergence last summer.
"I'll be looking to drive on - but I kind of have to play it by ear and see how I'm progressing," says O'Callaghan.
"That was always the dream, playing for Dublin. I always believed that I would. I didn't know when it would be - but I always thought that I'd be involved with the county panel."